Featured Interview With Toula Gordillo
Tell us a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?
I am a practicing Clinical and Jungian psychologist, as well as a former teacher, guidance officer and acting head of student services in schools. I grew up travelling around Australia with a father who loved narrating stories, songs and poetry, and a mother who taught me music and distance education.
When I was seventeen, my mother and I moved to one of the most rural and remote regions in Northern Australia. Here, I was briefly but fully immersed in the Indigenous culture. Combining my father’s love of the land, story and nature with my mother’s exposure to education and cultural traditions, I began to understand (and appreciate) the value of passing on important information through myth-based stories and images.
As a twenty-one year old undergraduate psychology student I was exposed to the work of Dr Carl Jung. It wasn’t until nearly twenty-five years later, however, and studying a doctorate in creative arts research degree, that I really understood Jung’s psychology: Not only are ancient and modern stories and images a great way to capture young people’s hearts and minds, but their imagination as well. In fact, the more fantastical the stories and images, the more we capture all people’s spirit too.
At what age did you realize your fascination with books? When did you start writing?
My father used to read Enid Blyton’s stories to me when I was a young child. Some of my favourites were The Magic Faraway Tree (I still have a fascination with trees to this day) and The Naughtiest Girl in School (I think the main character, Elizabeth Allen, was my alter-ego).
My father and I also listened to audiobooks, including Tolkien’s quintessential “The Hobbit”, narrated by Nicol Williamson in 1974. I remember that my father and I were both fascinated that the entire narration was done by Nicol. Over twenty characters he narrated in quick succession, I believe. Dad and I listened to it so often on a cassette tape that I think my father feared the tape would either wear out or break!
I’ve always enjoyed writing or drawing little anecdotes etc., but I remember that it was around the age of nine that I started to, unconsciously, become interested in reading and writing as a form of self-help.
I didn’t understand the terms therapeutic writing or bibliotherapy back then, but I remember my parents buying me a diary with a small lock on it…and I was the only one with a key! I took it as a symbol that I was growing up. That is, I now had important things on my mind that I needed to write about!
Books and writing felt like my own little private oasis inside my bedroom.
Who are your favorite authors to read? What is your favorite genre to read. Who Inspires you in your writings?
I like several different genres, including magical realism and fantasy. For me, these two are like mandarins and oranges. While they may appear similar on the outside, dig a little deeper and you find they are most definitely not the same! I like them both equally though, based on their own merits.
My favourite books contain teen protagonists and relatively simple storylines. With relatable characters, ancient and modern connections to time and place, and little pearls of wisdom scattered throughout, Coelho’s classic, The Alchemist, comes to mind. Or Martel’s The Life of Pi.
Again, while both appear to have a relatively simple storyline -they are anything but simple. In fact, the themes are complex and deep, and they stay with you for years to come. This is what i wanted to create with my debut novel, Shadows of Sylvaheim. I wanted it to resonate with people long after they turn the last page.
Tell us a little about your latest book?
Shadows of Sylvaheim is a thrilling adventure…an exciting blend between Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.
On the surface, it may appear to be a regular YA mythic fantasy novel, but Shadows is actually a teaching tool for all ages. Filled with action, adventure and subliminal advice, it is endorsed by leading Jungian scholar, lecturer and author, Dr Murray Stein.
Shadows of Sylvaheim (pronounced silver-heim) cleverly combines fantasy, mythology, psychology, spirituality and philosophy. Originally written as part of my doctoral research degree, its purpose is to teach young people how to cope with trauma, grief and loss, poverty, alcohol and substance misuse. It covers a number of complex themes using Jungian psychology and Stoic philosophy in an easy to digest format for young people to enjoy. In other words, it helps them to learn without realizing that they are learning.
Shadows further contains Shakespeare’s literary prose and Allan Poe’s Raven poem, as well as historical characters from myth and legend, such as King Henry VIII and Marcus Aurelius. It is what I call a Story Image (Learning and Teaching) Tool for use in educational and healthcare settings.
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