Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Have you had an NDE? Interview with Jeremy Kagan, author of 'My Death: A Personal Guidebook'

Jeremy Kagan is an internationally recognized director/writer/producer of feature films and television and a tenured professor. Some of his feature credits include the box-office hits HEROES, the political thriller THE BIG FIX, THE CHOSEN (2 time Grand Prize winner),and THE JOURNEY OF NATTY GANN  (Gold Prize Moscow Film Festival).  Among his many television shows are KATHERINEthe Making of an American Revolutionary and HBO’s CONSPIRACY: THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 8  (ACE Award for Best Dramatic Special). His film ROSWELL,THE UFO CONSPIRACY garnered a Golden Globe nomination and he directed the pilot for the hit series DR. QUINN: MEDICINE WOMAN.  Other television films include, for Showtime COLOR OF JUSTICE about racism and BOBBIE’S GIRL about a lesbian couple and CROWN HEIGHTS about the 1991 riots, which won the Humanitas Award for “affirming the dignity of every person.”  Kagan has won an EMMY for Dramatic Series Directing and directed “West Wing” and Spielberg’s  ”Taken.” He has made films for The Doe Fund which is the most successful program in America helping the homeless and for The Bioneers which organizes leaders in ecology and social justice, and TreePeople. Professor Kagan teaches graduate courses at USC in directing and has created the Change Making Media Lab, which has made projects on cancer prevention, obesity and ADHD.   Kagan has served as the Artistic Director of Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute and is on the National Board of the Directors Guild and Chairperson of its Special Projects. His books DIRECTORS CLOSE UP, Vol. 1 & 2, are published by Scarecrow Press.  A Graduate Fellow of the American Film Institute, he has an M.F.A. from NYU and a B.A. from Harvard University. He has taught master seminars on filmmaking in Hong Kong, Hamburg, Hanoi, France, Lebanon, Israel, Ireland and India.

His latest book is My Death: A Personal Guidebook.

You can visit Jeremy Kagan’s website at

Thank you for this interview!  I’d like to know more about you as a person first.  What do you do when you’re not writing?

Sleep. Play music. The clarinet.  Have sex. Make movies.  Teach how to make movies.  Paint and draw. Eat. Watch movies. Suck up culture. Talk.  Laugh. Think. Sometimes too much.

When did you start writing?

I started when I was a kid and wasn’t very good. I had this fantasy to write a novel when I was around 10. I wrote two pages and that was that. When I was in high school I got into journalism and became the editor of the high school newspaper. What was true for my writing even when I was young and for this particular piece of work as well, was that I like to add illustrations.  This ebook has 150 of my paintings.

As a published author, what would you say was the most pivotal point of your writing life?

When a film producer that I had worked with as a director asked me to write a screenplay, I was surprised.  This was the first time I realized that others thought I could write well. So I wrote the screenplay and directed the movie, which got a lot of attention at the time.   The film was a television movie called Katherine starring Sissy Spacek. about a young girl becoming a revolutionary.  I had to rewrite it repeatedly and that was a good lesson.

If you could go anywhere in the world to start writing your next book, where would that be and why?

There is this fantasy that if I were to go to some isolated mountain cabin in the snow and that I would be able to be totally dedicated to whatever writing project I might take on. But the truth is I like to work in my office surrounded by the stuff that I have made and collected over the years. I still would like to go to parts of India and the Amazon and go up north to see the Aurora Borealis, and I’m sure I would gather stories to tell, but I’m not certain that I would actually write them down.  Will see.

If you had 4 hours of extra time today, what would you do?

I would respond to those waiting emails, continue writing the book on direction that I am doing now, and catch up on some sleep.

Where would you like to set a story that you haven’t done yet?

In inner space. I think about the millions of activities going on inside each of our bodies every second, and wonder if we could actually engage with all of those beings that make us up, from the bacteria to the soul.

Back to your present book, My Death; A Personal Guidebook, how did you publish it?

I went through a journey to get to publishing.  At first I thought this would be a hard cover book.  After my third re-write I sent it off to some agents and publishers.  I was looking for the kind that was into books about para-normal, metaphysical and philosophical subjects.  I went through the waiting game and received some complimentary rejections.  Enough to tell me in my own mind that the book wasn’t ready.  I re-wrote some more.  I even tried it as a novel rather than non-fiction and then I put it aside.  But I knew I wanted and needed to get its message out.  So a couple of years ago, I investigated self-publishing.  And I read up on e-publishing as well and this seemed intriguing but I didn’t know which service to use.  Should I do this entirely on my own?  Then I began illustrating the book and one of my students turned me on to Balboa Press of Hays House which specializes in publishing this kind of material.  I contacted them on line and on the phone and went through their vetting process and then paid them to help prepare the book so it could be distributed in a variety of ways including Amazon.  They were very assiduous in the process and receptive to all the changes I asked for.  Once it was done came the next phase that I am in now which is how to get the word out about the ebook.  I created a website and spent some money getting people to activate a Facebook site and Twittering and am into getting professional publicity to make more inroads to having the book seen and read.  I purposely priced it as inexpensively as possible to make it available to as many as possible. 

In writing your book, did you travel anywhere for research?

Well in this case I traveled to hell and back, as well as to the stars.

Why was writing My Death: A Personal Guidebook so important to you?

Honestly this was the most profound experience that I’ve had in my life. It was a gift. It allowed me to have a deeper perspective about who I am and about death. I realized viscerally that consciousness never ends, and that we are part of an infinite interconnected awareness.  It also was a fantastic journey that eased my fear of death.  I felt that this was something I could and should share with others.

Where do you get your best ideas and why do you think that is?

Ideas come from being open. Not fording them.  Open to my own imagination, open to the suggestions of others, open to new experiences, open to the unknown. Specifically I noticed that when facing a problem I literally sleep on it and often times a new approach will come through the dream time.

Any final words?

As I learned from my NDE, lighten up.  And facts may inform, but stories transform. 

About the Book:

This is a powerful memoir of a near-death experience. After a Native American sweat lodge, the author loses control of his body and then his life. He begins a passage that leads to a personal hell. He discovers a way to escape and emerges into an amazing exploration of the soul’s journey. In this intense adventure, there are insights into stages of consciousness and encounters of blissful perfection. This spiritual, inspirational book is meant to be an aid to removing the universal fear of the final journey we are all taking.

Buy the Book at Amazon

Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking HERE.

No comments:

Post a Comment