The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Haraldur Erlendsson and Keith Hagenbach

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Haraldur Erlendsson and Keith Hagenbach

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Summary: Stacey thought that The Man Who Drew Triangles: Magician, mystic or out of his mind? by Haraldur Erlendsson and Keith Hagenbach was a thrilling, plot-twistingly good tale of folklore, legends, spirits and ultimately of thinking a little differently. She had quite a few questions for the authors when they popped into Bookbag Towers.
Date: #
Interviewer: Stacey Barkley
Reviewed by Stacey Barkley

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Stacey thought that The Man Who Drew Triangles: Magician, mystic or out of his mind? by Haraldur Erlendsson and Keith Hagenbach was a thrilling, plot-twistingly good tale of folklore, legends, spirits and ultimately of thinking a little differently. She had quite a few questions for the authors when they popped into Bookbag Towers.

  • Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

Haraldur Erlendsson and Keith Hagenbach:

Keith: I guess I see mainly women, because I feel they are generally more open to the metaphysical than men. At my age [71] everyone seems young, of course, but I also envisage younger people, because I feel their ways of thinking are less rigid, and thus more open to change. I also believe the level of consciousness on the planet is climbing - slowly but steadily - on which basis, younger people are likely to manifest a higher level of consciousness than we older ones.

Harald: The people I see reading our book are those with open minds, who relish being surprised, and are more interested in asking questions than finding answers.

  • BB: Writing in collaboration must be quite different from a lone venture, what were the pros and cons of this approach?

Keith: It worked wonderfully smoothly, basically because there was total harmony in terms of what we wanted to achieve and our determination to do so. Coupled to that, there is strong mutual respect and affection. Harold is unquestionably the visionary, the inspiration, and my job was to find words to express his vision. For me, listening to Harold is like watching a firework display; the challenge is to capture the essence of that experience in a way that hopefully others can share it. Quite honestly, there were no 'cons'.

Harald: I had a deep sense that the undertaking had an internal will of its own, and both of us were fascinated by the way in which that guided us and drove the process. An example of this is the harmonious relationship between us, which was a source of real joy and satisfaction for us both.

  • BB: Who came up with the title and were there any strong alternatives?

Keith: We began with Out of His Mind as a working title, but after completing the first draft decided it didn't feel right. I recall we toyed with a few other possibilities, none of which lasted long, and then, in an exchange of emails (by that time Harald had moved back to Iceland), The Man Who Drew Triangles emerged, and we both liked it.

Harald:

Like the rest of the book it seemed to emerge naturally from the field of shared consciousness generated between us as we went through the act of co-creation.

  • BB: You have both worked in mental health disciplines, how has this influenced the story?

Keith: The fact that we had shared experience of working in mental health - Harald as a psychiatrist, me as a psychotherapist - was a very important influence on the novel. That shared experience enabled us to create two authentic and psychologically 'accurate' main characters - Olaf and his psychiatrist, Patricia. Harald and I have also long been on our own personal inner journeys, and the understandings and insights flowing from them matched almost perfectly.

Harald: It certainly formed the backdrop for the story. We wanted to explore the boundary between inner and outer ex-periences, and when these are helpful and when disturbing or unsettling. We also wanted to encourage people to stay with the seeking of deeper levels of meaning, which often needs courage and daring.

  • BB: How would you respond to those who insist that the protagonist, Olaf, is 'mad' or 'out of his mind'?

Keith: I completely respect that view, and those who hold it, and I have no doubt Harald does, too. Olaf can accurately be described as 'out of his mind' inasmuch as he is not a slave to his mind - or what you might call his rational and logical side. He has a deep respect for his instinctual sense and his intuition. Rather than challenge anyone who sees Olaf as 'mad', I would ask them a question; if 'sane' equates to rational, logical and that which satisfies the intellect, does some 'madness' not add richness, fun and variety to life?

Harald: What is mad? Is it that which is out of the ordinary or, as psychiatry would often dictate, something which disrupts life? On that basis, is Olaf's life disturbed? And even if it is, is that 'disturbance' not also an indicator of change and thus the heart of being alive? After all, what it heralds in his life is adventure leading to integration and fascination.

  • BB: Were there any major plot twists that were omitted, or something you really wanted to explore but couldn't?

Keith: I would say the contrary is true. After completing the first draft, we jointly felt our tone was too serious, too earnest, and a touch didactic. We therefore embarked on a major rewrite, reinforcing the 'possible terrorist threat' aspect to add tension and make the narrative more compelling. It is also worth mentioning that, throughout, we had a great deal of support and inspiration we felt emanated from the spirit beings to whom we dedicate the book. I vividly recall once feeling I just did not know how to progress the narrative, and asking for help from these beings before going for a walk. Within 20 minutes I was on the phone to Harald, in tears, telling him, I've got it, I've got it…!

Harald: Initially, we did want to describe in greater detail the deeper spiritual aspects of the Scafell experience, but found we lacked words to do it justice. What we wanted to convey was the ability to be profoundly touched in the silence, at the same time being given a flood of images and a del sense of sacred presence - identifying that presence calling on beings like Bran the Blessed and St Columba from the Celtic and Early Christian traditions. In the end we agreed to hint at it would be better than trying to capture it in words. What we did describe is Olaf's powerful personal experience as he approached the saved, rather than a direct encounter with the numinous itself.

  • BB: What, in your opinion, is the most influential scene in the book and why?

Keith: I'll be really interested to see what Harald thinks on this one. For me it is the climactic experience on Scafell, on Midsummer night. I well remember being moved to tears as I read it, and asking myself, how could that be, how could I be so moved by something which, after all, I wrote? And the answer is perhaps the profound sense of healing - for Olaf, for Patricia, for Colm, and for Scafell itself. Somehow, in some magical way, the right words came to express the essence of the book - the quality of healing.

Harald: For me it is the section in Canterbury Cathedral, especially the invocation process. It describes a powerfully charged spiritual experience, when sun, moon and several sacred places are aligned, and intuitive guidance leads to a profound touching of the soul for several of those present.

  • BB: Do you have any writing habits or rituals?

Keith: I alternate between times when I am appallingly indisciplined, and others when I manifest the reverse - an almost zen-like focus. I want to pay tribute to Harald, who was unfailingly understanding and supportive, and never, ever put me under pressure to meet any deadline. My habits include scant attention to presentational detail, which often left Harald with a heavy burden in terms of correcting my typos. If my inability to count dots does not leave him with some form of PTSD, it will be a minor miracle.

Harald: I always had the sense of being attuned to something which was difficult to define, yet felt very familiar. Once the book began to take shape, it seemed to flow relatively effortlessly.

  • BB: You mention in the preface that you have a strong belief in the metaphysical and its influence on life, what message would you hope readers might take from the story?

Keith: My sense is that the enormous challenges we face on the planet at this moment flow from an obsession with the physical and material aspects of human existence. The message I would love readers to take away from our book is that a healthier, more natural state of being - individually and hence collectively - and one more conducive to human happiness is achieved by giving equal value to the physical and the spiritual. While most of the planet strives to boost Gross National Product, Bhutan strives to enhance Gross National Happiness. I believe we have much to learn from them.

Harald: My hope is that we awaken in readers the realisation that paying attention to their inner world is really important, and also to begin seeing their life as an amazing dream which will speak to them at every twist and turn once they become mindful, which means listening with awareness.

  • BB: What's next for Haraldur Erlendsson and Keith Hagenbach?

Keith: We are optimistic that people will receive and understand the messages we have woven into the book, and we have discussed the possibility of a sequel. This would be set in the USA, and perhaps centre round Colm studying in the USA, and carrying the torch Olaf lit in the first book, with understandings relating to the sacred geometry and earth energies evident in the New World.

Harald: We would like to write a second book , set in North America, in which we explore the vision of a land in which each sacred place and its attendant spirit is given meaning by the alignments of mountains, rivers and islands. We would reveal how this esoteric stream has from the beginning been maintained and supported by the efforts of Masonry as well as the Rosicrucian and royal traditions. A central message would be how awareness of this, and awakening to it can lead to the healing of mankind, and a renewed sense of mankind as caretaker and guardian rather than violator of the goddess… of Mother Earth.

  • BB: Thank you both for taking the time to talk to us and we look forward to seeing the second book.

You can read more about Haraldur Erlendsson and Keith Hagenbach here.

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