1. What is your book about and why did you write it?
Essentially, Crossing the Line is about connection. It is about the connection between a teen Spirit and a living teen, the connection between two worlds, and ultimately, human connection.
In the book, Laura, who died as a teenager in 1983, unites with Rebecca, a facts-only high school reporter, to help a troubled girl. It’s Laura’s mission to make sure that what happened to her never happens again. Meanwhile, Rebecca finds it difficult to believe that she can actually communicate with spirits and in her quest to find answers, she begins to uncover new details about Laura’s death. The story is a little bit mystery and a little bit mystical.
Told in alternating chapters between Laura’s and Rebecca’s points of view, Crossing the Line explores the idea that there is more to other people – and to our world – than what we see on the surface.
That theme goes back to my original inspiration for the story. About eight years ago, there were some horrific news stories in my area about teens committing violent acts against other teens. It was one of those things that deeply disturbed me and I kept thinking that if any of those kids had just taken a few minutes to pause and get to know the other person, they would have made different choices.
Then one day, I remember I was sitting on an airplane, I got this burst of inspiration – it was like a whole scene downloaded clearly in my mind. I saw these young girls playing with a Ouija board and a spirit was contacting them. At the time, it didn’t even seem connected to the issues that had been on my mind. I just knew this was not a scary story, but a story that portrayed spirits in a different way, a more “realistic” way in my view. I knew that this spirit would face her past and would get a second chance, so to speak, to make a difference.
While it took many years for the story to get written, rewritten, and finally published, I can see its messages are needed today more than ever. It’s amazing how that original idea morphed into the story it became in the end, with so many twists and turns that I didn’t even expect. One of the unintended elements that surprised me was that the story also took on the theme of mediumship and our ability to communicate with those on the “other side.” The very cool thing I’m finding is that the book is connecting with people on so many different levels. For some, it’s about comfort and hope. For some it’s about realizing we can make a difference by taking a moment to be kind. For some, it’s been a walk down memory lane as the spirit recalls her high school days in the 1980s. And for some, it’s a fun, entertaining “ghost mystery.” As my son Michael, a theater major, told me, art is never finished and continues to transform and take shape as it is received by different audiences. How beautiful is that!
2. Your book talks about standing up for yourself and others. How do we know when we should stand up for ourselves or others and when we should “not sweat the small stuff” and let things go?
In Crossing the Line, both of the main protagonists, Laura, the spirit, and Rebecca, the living teen, struggle to believe in themselves, like many people. Mainly, for Rebecca, she worries about what other people will think of her when they realize she has this “gift” for talking to dead people. Laura doubts her ability to accomplish her mission and make a difference. So the “standing up for yourself” in the book is really about overcoming your doubts and fears and owning the whole of who you are.
I believe when we’re caught up in what others are thinking about us, we’re “sweating the small stuff.” Still, it’s sometimes easier said than done to let that go. And often, that serves as fuel for helping us find deeper convictions for believing in ourselves.
Like Laura and Rebecca, who are trying to help another girl (Teresa), when you start realizing that the help you can give is much larger than your insecurities, you truly get the courage to do what is right for you and for another.
3. Did you pull from your own experiences to create your main characters?
I think writers cannot help but interject themselves and their experiences into their characters and stories. We write what we know. I see pieces of myself in both of the main characters. As I mentioned, the story unfolded in unexpected ways and without even realizing it, I think Rebecca’s arc of worrying about what people were thinking about her and her spiritual gifts is a reflection of my experience on my spiritual journey.
Like Rebecca, I went from being quite skeptical to embracing beliefs about life after death and other spiritual ideas. Eventually, I even began teaching workshops on all kinds of metaphysical things. Although I knew deep inside that this was a big part of my life purpose, it wasn’t something I shared openly with everybody. I didn’t want to be judged or laughed at. It’s taken me a while to come out of the spiritual closet – and I’m still working on getting there completely – but this book has been a big step toward merging my two worlds.
4. You have conducted workshops about intuition, life purpose, and angels. Would you be able to share an example of a time you believed an angel was influencing or helping someone in their life journey?
Oh my gosh, what a fun question. First of all, we all have access to angels who can and do influence our life journeys. We only need to ask for their help. I am constantly working with the angels and have been guided to so many wonderful people, experiences, and ideas on my path.
A great specific story that comes to mind is a story a fellow author, Joanell Serra (The Vines We Planted), recently shared with me. We both have the same publisher and when we chatted on the phone for the first time, discovered we shared so many things. One of them was our interest in angels.
Joanell told me that when she was starting to struggle with getting her manuscript published, a friend told her she should ask the angels for help. She went online to research what angel she could call on and found Archangel Uriel was a good angel to call on to help with publishing. (Note: Personally, I’ve always known Archangel Gabriel to be the writing and publishing angel, but hey, this is what came up for her and with good reason.) It just so happened that her main character’s name was Uriel, so that rang some extra bells. She asked Archangel Uriel to help her and within a few days, she had not one, but three publishing contracts for her book! I’d say that’s a perfect example of an angel guiding someone on their life’s journey. She happens to be a phenomenal writer, so we all can thank Archangel Uriel for helping her get her book out there.
5. What was it like writing a novel about spiritual themes related to the afterlife, mediums, and spirits? And, how has that been received?
I’ve always been an admirer of authors like Paulo Coehlo who can weave spiritual wisdom into an entertaining, fictional tale. My first book, a children’s novel called Jonathan’s Journey to Mount Miapu, was also a fictional story with many underlying spiritual themes. It’s a fun way to blend truth with imagination. It’s not about being preachy. It’s about giving people a fun, safe passageway to an imaginary world where they can take whatever they want from it.
As I mentioned, it’s been fascinating to see the different ways in which this book is being received and perceived. I have friends that absolutely don’t believe in life after death that have said the book made them think about the possibilities. There are others who have seemed to read the book after experiencing loss and say they found it comforting to think about their loved ones living on. It has seemed to evoke strong emotions for some people, and that’s when I know it is really connecting with the readers it was meant to connect with.
The “spiritual” part of the writing was actually so enjoyable. I had one interviewer ask me how I researched the medium and afterlife themes in the book? The funny part is that I lived it, so there wasn’t a lot of research necessary. After going through my own losses over 20 years ago, I had an incredible experience with a medium that made me question everything I thought I knew. As I mentioned, that sent me on a spiritual journey of reading, exploring, attending workshops, and eventually teaching. So, some of my experiences with mediums, along with other tidbits of spirituality and Universal wisdom I’ve amassed along the path, got woven into the story. I think that’s what makes Crossing the Line a very different kind of ghost story.
6. Anything else?
I just want to mention that while Crossing the Line is categorized as a Young Adult novel, it’s finding a strong audience with adults, especially those who enjoy the teen nostalgia and/or the unique take on life after death.
I also want to add for the aspiring authors out there: don’t give up on your dreams! Everyone has a story to tell. Just write from the heart and trust that your unique words and wisdom will find its audience. Keep practicing, keep learning, and keep at it. Most of all, enjoy the process don’t forget to have along the way. You will get there.
For more information about Ellen Valladares and her new book Crossing the Line, please visit Ellenvalladares.com.
Thanks Matt, for this wonderful interview and for sharing it here. Love to be part of this blog!
[…] To see Ellen’s recent interview with Matt on the Spiritual Media Blog, go here. […]