How do you go about writing an adult fable with a positive message for change? With his abstract and haunting The Trees Are Dying, author Ed Surma does just that, penning a tale of faeries, goddesses, and oracles that veils a call to protect the magical land we call planet earth.

Though dealing with a weighty topic, the final takeaway is hopeful. One lovely quote from the book states that “You are of power. Stand in your power and meet what confronts you. From that serenity arises. The slightest act of kindness might change the world.” Within the pages of this book, goodness is something you can believe in despite the darkness. 

A book like this is highly imaginative and whimsical, but, as with any good fairytale, it can say a great deal and contain many layers of meaning. We were able to ask Ed Surma some questions about his transformational experiences exploring the shamanism and mythology that are the foundation for The Trees Are Dying. Read our review of this unique book here

Q: What was your inspiration for this book?

A: During a shamanic journey (which is somewhat like meditation), I heard “The Trees Are Dying” quite clearly and I knew it was the title of a book I would write. That was all I had, but I heard it again and again over two or three months. I could certainly relate this title to the degradation of the Earth, then I realized that this degradation was a reflection of what is going on within us as human beings.

I started writing a piece that became Chapter 2, then the book just “came” to me. I surprised myself: I have done a lot of technical writing in my professional career, and always had clear plans, an outline, etc. For this book, the ideas just manifested and I wrote them down. I didn’t even know the end of the book until I had written over half of it. I can honestly say I don’t really know where the inspiration came from, I just followed the inspiration to its conclusion.

Q: Could you give us more details on the Celtic mythology it’s based on?

A: When someone studies the Celtic path, probably the first thing one learns is that Faeries are not Disney-esque teenage girls, or the Victorian counterparts of teenage girls in flowing robes. With wings, of course. The Tuatha de Danann, the Sidhe, these are not “fairies” but powerful beings who were warriors, healers, magicians, leaders, etc.  They were the inspiration for many of the book’s non-human characters and there are bits of the mythical stories included.

I would point to Thomas the Rhymer and the Corpus Christi carol. Both have been Christianized in their current forms, but the meaning has not been lost. What is especially interesting is that Thomas the Rhymer is an actual person, named Sir Thomas de Ercildoun, who is said to have lived with the faeries and then returned to write about it.

Q: How did you develop the unique dialect style for the Faeries?

A: By pretending I was them! Seriously, for these characters I put myself into their place, maybe a little psychotically, and just opened up to “their personalities.” This is what came out. Maybe I did that for all the characters in the book, but I felt some special inspiration for the non-human characters. Perhaps they were inspiring me as I wrote.

Q: For 40 years, you worked in the corporate high-tech industry. What led you to writing and your spiritual practice?

A: My spiritual practices have been with me since high school. I have been through many a modality, from New Age to Eastern to Gnostic Christian, until I came upon shamanism. Let me be clear: I am not a shaman. That title is reserved for very special people who have gone through rigorous training in a well-defined lineage.  I am a shamanic practitioner, where I use certain techniques that are common to Earth-centered, direct experience spirituality and (try to) augment those with what can be discovered or authentically recreated from my ancestral past, which includes Celtic and Germanic bloodlines. I felt there was more to this world than the physical reality that we normally partake in, and I now feel that it is possible to sense and even visit those non-physical, non-ordinary realities.

As for writing, I’ve always wanted to write, and my high-tech career included a lot of writing: computer manuals, proposals, etc. I guess three years ago I just got old enough to say it’s time to write creatively or I may end up taking my ideas to the grave.

Q: What issues would you like readers to consider when reading the novel? What message(s) would you like them to take away from it?

A: The prophecies actually cause me a lot of angst. I don’t know where these came from, but I see a certain probability associated with all of them. We do a lot of things that can lead to our own destruction; encroach into disease reservoirs, build on coasts and fault lines, and get more and more entrenched in our own myopic views as individuals, groups and nations.

What would happen if something like the bubonic plague came along and killed one-third of the population? A Cascadia or New Madrid earthquake? A third World War? I think the prophecies are in the book to contrast the other messages. Can we be present in this world and not lust for Heaven, Nirvana or whatever that will come “later”? Can we reach beyond our 3-D physical world and touch the world of Spirit? Can we just be kind to each other?

Q: Do you have plans for another novel in the future? If so, can you share some insight?

A: The Trees Are Dying is not the book I set out to write. I have a revised draft of a novel set in 3000 B.C. and I am now working on that again. Of course, this novel I am working on includes metaphysical subjects and shamanism. I hope to have that out later this year; but, just about when I thought I was going to do the final revision of that novel, The Trees Are Dying took over. So, who knows? I might have this historical novel out in time for Christmas, or I may end up writing something completely different. You might say that I’m walking this tightrope between fully dedicated and fully open, or maybe that I’m fully dedicated to whatever comes about.

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Ed Surma connects with Nature and the spirits of Earth in Northern Virginia where he currently resides. A forty-year veteran of the high-tech industry, he has now retired from corporate life to pursue his writing and diverse other interests. He crafts Native American-style drums, leading drum circles and drum-making workshops. He studies Celtic and Nordic mythology and spirituality, practicing shamanism, Reiki, and sound meditation.

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and a graduate of Carnegie-Mellon University (BA, Creative Writing), he has also lived in Austin, Texas and Phoenix, Arizona. He is a member of the National Wildlife Federation and National Audubon Society.