Today I bring you an interview with Dr. Paul DeBlassie III, author of a remarkable novel called The Unholy. It's a tense thriller, a story of a life-and-death struggle, a nail-biting suspense story, and also much more. The novel explores issues of religion, spirituality, the clash of cultures, and the clash of faiths. It's set in New Mexico, against the vivid cultural backdrop of mestizos and traditional healing. Paul DeBlassie III is uniquely qualified to write this story, but I'll let him explain why.
I get the impression that The Unholy is a book only you could write, because of the setting, and because of your own background. Let's start with the setting. Tell me about Aztlan.
is the mythopoeic realm of the mestizos (mixed bloods of southwestern United States).
I am mestizo. Aztlan is New Mexico, especially the region of Albuquerque (southern Aztlan)
and Santa Fe (northern Aztlan) and extends to the four corners area. Spirits,
dreams, visions, and natural magic are woven seamlessly into everyday life.
Your protagonist, Claire Sanchez, is a curandera, a term which roughly translates as "Medicine Woman." What exactly is a curandera? What led you to choose this occupation for your heroine?
A curandera is a healer. She spoke to me as the story evolved, told me who she was and told me of her struggle to find herself. The path of a healer is fraught with danger. She dramatizes the life of so many women and men seeking to face their fears, find themselves, and walk the path of healing, natural magic, and life.
Faith and religion are central themes of The Unholy. You explore the abuse of religion and the conflict that can come from spirituality. What would you say is the central theme or message of The Unholy? What impact are you hoping to have on your readers?
The central message of The Unholy is Religion Kills. It is made explicit at the end of the tale. News media broadcast Religion Kills as they describe the battle between the evil Archbishop and the young curandera.
You live in New Mexico, in the general area where the novel is set. How has this affected the writing of The Unholy? How important was your knowledge of the places and people and culture? What kinds of personal knowledge did you draw on as you crafted your characters and setting?
New Mexico is Aztlan. My lineage reaches back for over three hundred years in Aztlan, a long line of medicine people, healers. I live here, breathe its air, am sheltered under the canopy of its turquoise sky. The Unholy and the natural magic of the medicine women, forces of darkness and light, exist side by side in the daily, mythopoeic realm of Aztlan. I live here. It is my homeland.
How has your training and experience as a psychologist impacted your writing in general?
For over thirty years I have treated survivors of the dark side of religion. I chose to write a novel about this human drama. Stories cut to the chase. I’ve written three other books in psychology and spirituality, but there is nothing like stirring the imagination via story to set the mind working and the heart healing.
I know you've had some specific experiences in your role as a psychologist that led to your decision to write this book. Tell me about that.
Religion can be both terrifying and damaging. I help people to heal from the dark side of religion. Decades of such experience led me to write this book and the ones that will follow. Each phantasmagoric story, much like The Unholy, plumbs the dark and light sides of human nature and spiritual experience.
The cover image for The Unholy is striking and haunting, and it's not just some random stock photo. Tell me about that picture.
It is the Devil’s Throne, an actual site between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. The evil archbishop performs atrocities there. The land has been contaminated by evil, women desecrated, the air itself befouled. It is the Devil’s Throne in the realm of Azltan!