Love. Empathy. Are they the same? Today, I’m excited to welcome Anise Eden, author of The Healing Edge trilogy. When I think of the it, superlatives just roll through my mind. It’s heart-gripping on so many levels.
Hi, Anise. I just finished reading All the Light There Is. It’s a wonderful conclusion to an amazing, emotional, thrill of a series. Thank you so much for joining us so that I can ask you some burning questions. But before I get ahead of myself, what would you like to tell us about the series and especially about your latest book?
Hi, Anastasia! Thank you so much for your interest in my writing, and for so graciously inviting me to participate in your blog. I am honored and grateful to be here!
The Healing Edge Series is so special to me, and very close to my heart. Book One, All the Broken Places, was not only my publishing debut, but the first novel I’ve written. It has been a great blessing and a tremendous journey, becoming a novelist while telling Cate and Ben’s story.
Cate Duncan is a talented young therapist struggling with her own mental health issues in the wake of her mother’s suicide. For help, she turns to psychiatrist Angeline MacGregor and her son Ben, a psychologist and Marine Corps veteran. While Cate believes she’s signing up for a conventional treatment program, she soon finds herself among a group of paranormally gifted alternative healers who understand her empathic gifts in ways she never imagined. They want to teach Cate how to use her gifts without sacrificing her own wellbeing. But in spite of her attraction to Ben, Cate finds him bullheaded and infuriating, and when she learns what he wants her to sacrifice, she can’t get away fast enough. It isn’t long, though, before Cate realizes that the members of the MacGregor Group are her allies, not her enemies, and that she needs them just as much as they need her.
Thus begins Cate’s journey into a world she never imagined existed—a world of psychics and telepaths, precogs and aura readers. A world where her own empathic gifts make her sought after while also putting her in danger. A world of conspiracies, intrigue, and murder. But for Cate, the most amazing discovery of all is the romance of a lifetime with Ben, a real-life hero struggling mightily with his own demons.
The Healing Edge Series spans three consecutive weeks, with my most recent release, All the Light There Is, covering the final week. Ben and Cate think they are headed for a week-long working vacation on the waterfront of Mercier Lodge, a luxury sporting facility on the beautiful Delmarva Peninsula. But Mercier Lodge harbors deadly secrets that will strike at the heart of Cate’s family and could even threaten Ben’s life. The MacGregor Group is called into action to solve the mysteries of Mercier Lodge before they become deadly—again. In the process, they uncover an even more profound danger, linked to a greater destiny that awaits them all.
It’s a nerve-wracking, thrilling, spectacular finale to the series. Personally, I’m looking forward to reading the whole series a second time – in a calmer manner, not actually sitting straight up or on the edge of my seat. Of course, I’m not sure if it will be possible – the calm part, that is.
I know my favorite thing about the series, which I’ll share after you tell us yours. What’s your favorite aspect of this series? I suppose we can allow for more than one favorite thing if you can’t name just one.
Well, I’m glad we can allow for more than one, because there are many aspects I would call “favorites!” I thoroughly enjoyed exploring paranormal gifts from various angles, delving into the many meanings of healing, writing about how our connections with others transcend death, among others. But I would have to say that my favorite part to write was the relationship between Cate and Ben.
It was such a luxury to be able to follow the arc of their story over three books, allowing me room to thoroughly explore a love story that is both authentic and inspirational. The differences between them and the challenges they face could easily pull Cate and Ben apart, but they keep choosing each other, and choosing to grow however they must to make the relationship work. I’ve been so gratified to hear from readers that they fell in love with Ben and Cate, and were rooting for them right from the start.
The romantic scenes, while deeply emotional, also have awkward moments, humor, misunderstandings, and some jarring surprises. I wrote and rewrote those scenes until they truly made me swoon; I figured that was the best way to make readers swoon, as well. Cate and Ben are both strong and capable people in complementary ways, but they are also complex, with weaknesses and limitations. I think that’s why readers find them so relatable. And I must say, it was really fun writing the “steam” between Ben and Cate—both their “clean-with-steam” passionate scenes, and their “steam-coming-out-of-their-ears” conflicts!
Oh, you definitely succeeded with the swoon-worthy scenes. Okay, so I have two favorites (maybe ten). The way in which everything between Cate and Ben is infused and wrapped with emotion – such undeniable passion – is breathtaking.
What I also appreciate is the emphasis on empathy – a direct, pronounced emphasis on the good that it can do, the impact that it can have on individuals and situations, and the very real pain a sincerely empathetic person can suffer. I can relate to Cate, how much she feels, how much others’ pain hurts her. I respect her for being willing to do whatever it takes to help others, even if it endangers her health and her life. She really cares. Certainly, the positive energy and caring of one person can make a bad situation better. In your opinion, how much can one empathetic person do?
How much can one empathetic person do, who is seeking to do good and to help others? I don’t think there are any limits in the realms of love and healing. Empathy is miraculous. It allows us to truly see, hear, and understand another person, even if we don’t agree with them or condone their choices. I believe that each one of us has a deep need to be truly seen. There are no words to describe how profound it is to have that need met, or to meet that need for others. But as you note, using your empathy to help others can come with certain costs. Everyone has their own limits in that regard, and it’s important to learn and respect those limits—something Ben and the other members of the MacGregor Group try to impress upon Cate throughout The Healing Edge Series—not that she always listens!
I noted from your bio that you’re a former psychotherapist and a certified Reiki practitioner. Would you please tell us a little about Reiki and your experience as a practitioner?
For those who might be unfamiliar, Reiki is a complementary therapy of Japanese origin with the goal of transferring universal energy from the practitioner to the client to encourage physical or spiritual healing. Many Reiki practitioners use a hands-on technique, but I prefer to hold my hands a few inches above the client’s body, or to use distance healing techniques.
I was a complete skeptic when I attended my first Reiki class. I went because I was searching for better ways to cope with my own difficult emotions, and I was told by several people that Reiki was worth a try. During my classes, though, I had experiences that were powerful, undeniable, and could not be explained away, even by psychology (and believe me, I tried!). Later, when I gave Reiki to others—some of them also skeptics—their responses were quite powerful. Ultimately, I had to acknowledge that Reiki was like so many other things in life—a reality for which we don’t yet have a scientific explanation.
Having said that, the field of quantum physics is making amazing new discoveries about how energy behaves, and I don’t think the day is far off when we’ll be able to explain from a scientific standpoint why Reiki and other such techniques can be effective. For now, though, the understanding I have reached is that Reiki is different only in form from other ways in which we try to direct healing energy to one another—including prayer, which is also something I also do regularly. To me, prayer and energy healing techniques are like a piano. All of us pianists draw upon the same creative source, and we all create music. But because we use different techniques, our sounds and melodies may vary.
Thank you for that very interesting and beautiful way of explaining it.
In writing The Healing Edge series, from which did you draw more – your formal training or your personal, “untrained” feelings and experiences? Or none of the above?
I definitely drew more from my personal, “untrained” feelings and experiences. I sometimes joke that The Healing Edge Series is autobiographical, but that is actually true in many ways. The series was very challenging to write in part because it involved diving into myself and reliving my own experiences of depression, anxiety, grief, empathy, loving people with addictions, overcoming challenges in relationships, and struggling to choose a path in life. I have also either lived in or spent a lot of time in the geographical locations where the books are set and used those experiences while creating the settings. The methods described in the Reiki and acupuncture scenes were also drawn from personal experience, as were some of the other descriptions of parapsychological phenomenon. I used my formal training as a psychotherapist, too, but in abstract ways—for example, while structuring Dr. MacGregor’s initial psychiatric interview with Cate, and while incorporating standard procedures for dealing with mental health emergencies into the plot. For the rest, I relied on research and imagination.
So, I loooove Ben. And Cate, of course. What a beautiful romance! One would think that a paranormal thriller that touches deeply on sensitive topics and healing would have quite enough gong on. But you give us more, a romantic relationship that prevails and grows stronger despite tough and often scary circumstances. And then, there’s more than just romantic love. You write great, believable characters. Do you, as author, feel closest to Cate? Or Angeline? Another character? Share with us your feelings about your main characters.
I’m delighted that you love Ben and Cate and their romance! So do I, as you might have guessed! (In case you’re interested, I have dream-cast Theo James and Riley Keough in those roles for the inevitable future movie. J) It’s wonderful to hear that you find the characters believable, as well. They certainly are to me. Each one was fully formed in my mind while I was writing the series, and they live with me to this day. While I probably identify most with Cate, I feel close to all of my characters in different ways.
In an article about dream interpretation, Dr. Carder Stout said, “All of the figures in our dreams represent aspects of ourselves.” (https://goop.com/wellness/spirituality/what-dreams-mean/) For me, the same is true for my main and secondary characters. They all reflect parts of me, although each one also has distinguishing qualities that are theirs alone.
You asked if I feel close to Cate and Angeline specifically. I probably share the most qualities with Cate, both positive and negative. But sometimes, I am also Angeline, driven, determined, and making things happen out in the world. At other times, I’m Ben, finding security in my areas of competence while avoiding things about myself that need work. As an Aquarius, I’m often like Kai, fiercely true to myself and forging my own path, even if it flies in the face of convention. I’ve been known to use dry, understated humor and to keep my own counsel, as Pete does. Vani represents a goal character for me, in that I’d love to be more like her, so well pulled-together and accomplished in multiple areas. Asa and Eve share my basic joy and enthusiasm for life and learning. While Simone didn’t get much screen-time in the final edits, she is the friend I hope to be, unconditionally loving and supportive. And all of these characters have qualities I hold in high esteem and hope to embody: love, loyalty, integrity, and a desire to help others.
I could talk to you all day. But I guess I’d better get on with sharing an excerpt from All the Light There Is. It’s just below, along with links to your books and social media. But before we go, is there anything new in the works?
I could talk to you all day, as well! If you’re ever in Ireland, let’s make it happen! Thanks so much for asking if there is anything new in the works. The answer is yes! I recently finished writing a new romantic suspense novel, Dead Sound, the first book in the Things Unseen Series. Just last month, Dead Sound was a winner in the IRWA Golden Opportunity writing contest, which was very exciting, and it has also placed in two other Romance Writers of America (RWA) chapter contests this year. Right now I’m in the process of finding a publisher to help me put Dead Sound into readers’ hands. Here is a glimpse:
In Washington, D.C., even the hospitals are political—and politics can be deadly. When young psychotherapist Neve and Irish doctor Cornelius are pulled into a tortuous conspiracy that leads from their hospital straight to the White House, the pair must decide if falling in love is worth risking their friendship—provided Neve can survive the week with a target on her back.
I’m currently working on the sequel, Banjaxed, which follows Neve and Con to Ireland to unravel yet another suspenseful and mind-bending mystery. To fans of The Healing Edge Series who love the paranormal aspects, without giving too much away, I can say that there will be plenty of things to interest you in The Things Unseen Series, as well!
No doubt! I’m looking forward to reading The Things Unseen Series with positively avid anticipation. I’ll be sure to let my readers know when it’s available, too – share the love.
One last question, Anise, if you please. Love, empathy – are they the same?
For many of us, the concepts of love and empathy are inextricably intertwined, and we can’t imagine one existing without the other. However, I don’t believe that is true for everyone. For example, there are those for whom empathizing comes easily, but they use their ability as a tool to manipulate or take advantage of others. There are also people who love intensely but find empathizing with others to be very difficult. So I would say that while love and empathy may seem the same to some of us, not only are they two different things, but they don’t necessarily coexist. Your question touches upon the definition of love, as well, and there are probably as many different definitions of love as there are people. This question is a great window, then, into exploring the fascinating and infinite variety of human experience.
Well said. Thank you again, Anise, for sharing your time with us.
Excerpt from ALL THE LIGHT THERE IS, by Anise Eden.
With an hour before dinner, I was ready to head back, but Owen wanted to show us more of the hunting amenities. Ben was clearly interested, so I went along. Owen took us out to some deer stands, duck blinds, and what turned out to be my favorite stop—the kennel, which was home to the hunting dogs. The “kennel” turned out to be a small cottage with a loft and a few dog runs built inside the front door. The hunting guides were a young married couple, the Selbys. The dogs, who lived as the Selbys’ pets, appeared to be models of good health, happy and content. There had been four dogs—two black Labradors and two Brittany spaniels—until about six weeks prior, when Stella, one of the elegant brown-and-white spaniels, had given birth to two puppies.
Fortunately, the puppies were awake when we arrived. I could have spent the rest of the
week right there, absorbing their playful, sweet energy. Owen handed us one each—I got the girl, and Ben the boy. As though she’d intuited exactly what I needed, my puppy just curled up in my arms and snuggled, letting me pet her and tell her how beautiful she was, and what fun she was going to have with Stella and the other dogs.
Meanwhile, before my eyes, Ben transformed. Every tense muscle relaxed and every
worry line was erased as Ben rolled around in a pile of shredded newspaper, play-wrestling his delighted puppy and letting it beat him time after time. With a permanent grin on his face, Ben let the puppy bite his fingers, then wailed softly when the puppy made little threatening growling noises. The puppy looked so proud of itself, its tail wagging nonstop.
Every time I thought I couldn’t fall any harder for Ben… My heart felt as light as the
beams of sun coming in through the window blinds. I thought about how much Ben had loved Tank, the Rottweiler his Marine Corps unit had worked with for a time. Ben’s Marine nickname, "Rottie,” came from their apparent similarities, and Ben was so fond of Tank that he’d gotten a big tattoo of the dog’s likeness on his hip. I wondered if Tank was still in active duty. If so, I
hoped he was living a happy life with other Marines who loved him as much as Ben had.
On the ride back to the lodge, Owen chatted away about Mercier’s history, but all I
wanted was to be close to Ben. I leaned over and pressed my head against his chest, twining his fingers in mine and listening to his heartbeat. Ben wrapped his arm around my shoulders and held me close as we drove over the rough ground. I closed my eyes and pictured him playing with the puppy, and for a few moments, all was right with the world.