Sunday, May 11, 2014

An Interview with Gwendolyn Taunton, author of Primordial Traditions

Good morning to your all! Today, I am thrilled to bring you a little chat that we had with Gwendolyn Taunton, author of Primordial Traditions.
Hi, Gwendolyn! So happy that you stopped by today. You’ve published a number of books, most recently Primordial Traditions. What can you tell us about yourself, as an author, and the books that you write?
GWENDOLYN: I’ve been writing professionally now for eight years. The majority of my writing has been non-fiction, but I sometimes diversify into poetry and fiction pieces. A great proportion of my work is on Eastern Spiritual Traditions or philosophy. At the moment I’m trying to put out 1-2 titles a year. This goal was shattered somewhat by a series of earthquakes in 2010-2011. After 2012 however, I’ve managed to get back on track with this target.
What is Primordial Traditions about and who might enjoy picking up a copy of this book?
GWENDOLYN:Primordial Traditions is my first project which began as a home- made free webzine. It quickly grew a following online and in 2009 a collection of the best articles was published in a book. This was the first book I made, and it had quite a few things in it which needed to be corrected. So I decided to bring out a new edition with a completely different layout and revised content. Articles from the first book have been replaced with new chapters also. So in essence, this isn’t just a second edition – it’s an improved and enhanced version of the earlier book.
You are a previous recipient of the Ashton Wylie Award for Literary Excellence (2009). Can you talk to our readers a little bit about this award and why it was given to you?
GWENDOLYN:I was very surprised to win that. I actually read one of the other contestant’s books and thought her book was much better than mine. One of the reasons Primordial Traditions won the grand prize was due not so much due to its content, but the practical application of it as a philosophy. The Ashton Wylie Award has a humanitarian element to it, so the money is awarded to people who are likely to use it to advance society. In the case of the Primordial Tradition, it’s obviously a philosophy that can unite different strands of faith and belief for the purposes of ending religious persecution and creating greater understanding of religions. Rather than merging Traditions together, it adds a sub-layer of philosophical pretext that permits them to communicate with each other, no matter how different they are. In essence, what I have tried to do is to render religion and spirituality into a format which is logical in its approach and more suited for delivery to a modern audience.
Many readers of this blog are new authors, some of whom have still not even approached publishers with their finished manuscripts. How was your experience as a first time author and can you give us some pointers in dealing with publishers, agents, editors, etc.
GWENDOLYN:I’ve actually never once approached a publisher…I’ve been very lucky and they all came to me. This probably has something to do with the fact that I was already publishing my own work online for free though. My best advice here is to use the internet and put things online for free to attract interest. Publishers have a way of searching for talent online, and if you are good they will come to you. Getting publicity is an important aspect.
We’re very interested in this one: can you talk a little bit about your book, Mythos: The Myths and Tales of H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard? What was the driving force behind writing that?
GWENDOLYN:I felt like doing something different there. I’ve always enjoyed Lovecraft’s work, and thought it would fun to work on a book in this genre. There’s a lot of interest in his books at the moment. It was definitely a fun project to work on. I’d like to do some more work along this line later.
We notice that you’ve published frequently with Numen Books. How difficult was it to find and feel comfortable with a publisher and how did you know that they were the right fit for you?
GWENDOLYN:John handles the business end of Numen and he is great to work with. I like to write, but don’t enjoy the business or administrative side of things, so it’s a great relief to have someone else handle that side of things. Numen also publishes some other great books, such as Occult Traditions and Alchemical Traditions. They specialise in spiritual texts for the intellectual practitioner so it’s a good fit.
Our readers tell me that they enjoy it when I ask this question, so I’m going to do it once again: What are you currently reading?
GWENDOLYN:Currently I’m reading The Aristocratic Ideal in Ancient Greece. A bit different to my usual topics, but I’m working on writing a piece about the idea of the ‘Good’ and ‘Virtue’ in the works of Plato. So far it’s a very good book and I’m picking up some new information from it. I would definitely recommend it for anyone interested in Greek philosophy or classics. I’ve also been reading lot of Plato’s material on the trial and dialogues of Socrates to see how it relates to his other ideas. So basically I’m reading lots of Plato and Greek history at the moment.
Any new work on the horizon? What’s next for Gwendolyn Taunton?
GWENDOLYN:After this I plan to finish The Tantrik Tradition which is reasonably close to completion. I am hoping to release this in November. This book will be my most significant work, as it combines ideas I have been researching for over a decade and includes some very hard to source content on the topic. Instead of concentrating on the usual over-sensationalised elements of Tantrism, I’ll be looking at its original Hindu form, and attempt to explain this to people in Western countries, who often have very odd opinions on Tantra. The way Tantra is perceived by the East and the West is very strange…almost opposite in fact. There’s probably a good case for arguing they are not even the same Tradition and that the ‘sacred sex’ element that seems to dominate Western thought on the topic is almost a quirk of Western culture.
Anything else at all that you’d like us to know about Primordial Traditions or any of your other books?
GWENDOLYN:Firstly Primordial Traditions will be back as a regular publication. Secondly, I’d like to say that the content of this book is not the same as the first edition. Some pieces which I thought could be improved on (most of which are ones written by me) have been removed and replaced with different content. A new chapter at the front of the book has also been written by me. In essence I’ve taken a book that was already an award winner and tried to make it even better. And I very much hope people will enjoy the change. I’d also like to thank Goatcraft for providing a wonderful soundtrack to the promotional video.
Brief blurb/teaser for Primordial Traditions:
GWENDOLYN:Primordial Traditions, the recipient of the $10,000 Ashton Wylie Award for Literary Excellence, is finally back in print after a long hiatus. Originally a free quarterly periodical dealing with spiritual and metaphysical philosophy, Primordial Traditions was reprinted in book format in 2009, and received the award for its potential to unite the different Traditions of the world by postulating a core under-lying philosophy.
Unfortunately the original plans for the book were waylaid by a year long sequence of large earthquakes in the author’s country of residence. Following this, the original plans for the book became untenable and the author, Gwendolyn Taunton, relocated and the series halted.
In 2014, Primordial Traditions is back in a second edition, with new and revised content. Now writing under her real name instead of the previous non de plume, Gwendolyn Taunton has assembled and impressive book of over four hundred pages with an excellent design and research.
With subject matter as diverse as religious philosophy, Middle Eastern Mysticism, rites of Ancient Greece and Rome, Norse Berserkers, Tantra, and altered states of consciousness in yoga, Primordial Traditions covers an extremely diverse range of topics, some of which are clearly intended to be aimed at an audience of highly educated readers. This is tempered however, by some less intense and more relaxing articles on Celtic & Viking history, Mayan astrology, and even some dealing with law and finance. These articles, though not as hefty, are equally fascinating and add to the quality of the volume by virtue of their unique topics.
After sitting down and reading the book cover to cover, it’s easy to see how such a philosophical approach to religion could benefit humanity by teaching a sensible, moderate, and logical approach to faith that ends religious conflicts and prevents dogma and fundamentalism from damaging spiritual movements. All in all, Gwendolyn Taunton’s greatest achievement here is perhaps a philosophical victory rather than a literary one, because this is a concept I could easily see changing not only the way religion and spirituality are conceived, but also the very nature of the concept itself. By reading and spreading the philosophy of the Primordial Tradition, I already feel secure that this book will make the world a better, happier, and safer place.
Gwendolyn Taunton, Primordial Traditions Volume I, Numen Books, 2014.
Where can we buy your books?
Thanks, Gwendolyn! Check back soon for our next interview!
@BookTalkGuy and @RimerTom

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