by Jhon Sanchez
Even though I met Luca two or three years ago, it seems that it has been for a longer time. My friend Justin Sight, the magician, kept talking about Luca’s spiritual search and good sense of humor. Luca, a doctor himself, decided to dedicate his life to writing, and in that sense, his life path is similar to mine.
I want to have a conversation about Luca’s life, motivations, views, and spiritual life, and of course, about his first novel Green Haven, a mystery set in a nursing home.
Thank you for granting this interview.
JS: You’re a doctor who suffered an injury and had to retire from practicing your long-term career. I guess this was a complicated process. Can you talk about that? What message would you give to people who are facing similar circumstances?
LDM: This was a challenging time in my life. I thought that I had lost who I was and how I viewed myself in the world. I believed I lost my identity. The truth was that being a doctor was only part of who I am. That is still inside of me; it’s just not in the forefront. Those beginning months of 2018 were dark and painful, both physically and emotionally.
My body and soul were both hurt. When you’re down into the darkness like that, you have a choice to make: find the strength to see your true self or allow the darkness to consume you. I have always loved to write, and authoring Green Haven, was the path back out of the sudden darkness I found myself in. The only advice I can share with others who find themselves in the dark is never to stop looking for your strength and not be afraid to trust yourself to use it.
JS: You said that you got the idea of the novel from a dream. Did you dream the entire story from beginning to end? Did you dream of just some elements of the novel? Did you dream about one of the characters?
LDM: Green Haven started coming to me in the space I call “The In-between.” It’s that time when you’re still awake and just about to fall asleep. But I think there is a more critical point that needs to be made here. We have to be ready and willing to hear the voice or message waiting for us in that space. I guess I was ready. As for downloading the entire novel in one dream, no, it came in pieces. When I started to write the story of Green Haven, I was merely taking dictation. It was as if the characters talked and I typed. Even in the editing, I felt like I was being guided to make changes. Now, it’s also true that many corrections were made to adhere to the rules of the written word, but that’s not really what we’re talking about here. The essence of the dialogue, the action, and the story itself unfolded like it was being told and shown to me.
JS: You’re a spiritual person who is also a public speaker about self-motivation. Why did you decide to write and publish a mystery novel? Why did you want to take that path and that genre?
LDM: Much like thinking that being a doctor and author, being a spiritual person and public speaker are just parts of who I am. Hats that I wear. Green Haven was given to me to write, and so I did. It may have been that I needed something that was not anything I thought myself to be at the time. Writing the novel was a stepping stone to unlocking another piece of who I am.
JS: Why do we read mystery novels? Do you think mystery helps us indict social and political institutions?
LDM: It’s my opinion that we read novels because they are one way to escape for whatever it is that each of us needs a break from. I don’t think diversion is necessarily a bad thing. Diversion, done with intent, can be a way to step back and see a solution to something we may need to answer. Mystery novels can help us see social and political issues, but I’m not sure if they are trying to indict institutions. That was not my intent at all.
JS: I watched the interview you granted to Queenie Clem, the YouTuber, and I wondered how much you can reveal during an interview about a mystery novel?
LDM: I’ve given several interviews and I wonder the same question each time. I asked my publisher this very same question. The best answer I can give is to share enough of the plot to get the person watching the interview to keep interested. Knowing where to end each chapter of the novel was more straightforward than answering that question.
JS: Let’s talk about nursing homes. The novel signals a significant disparity in the standards of care. We have Green Care facilities that, for a lifetime fee, rich people can live as if they were in a royal palace. Are you making a social/political commentary about the standard of care of nursing homes in the United States? Has COVID unmasked a hard reality regarding the disparity of nursing homes in this country?
LDM: I don’t think I was condemning the nursing facilities at all. I worked for over twenty-five years in nursing facilities, and for the most part, they are trying to do the best job they can. The one aspect that Green Haven does pick up on is that a large number of family members who place a loved one in a nursing facility spend less time visiting that resident as time goes on. The reasons are many, but I believe that sorrow, guilt, and in some cases, forgottenness play key roles. I didn’t intend to place blame on anyone. It’s just a circumstance that exists. COVID has made this situation more complicated. In any instance where the individuals are in an enclosed community, sickness can spread rapidly. What we have to understand is that COVID didn’t just happen in these communities. It was introduced from an outside source, and then the medical personnel has to deal with it. When I was working in the nursing facilities, one of the greatest threats was outbreaks of infections, and they usually came from the outside world.
JS: Would you agree that psychoanalysis plays an important role in crime literature?
LDM: Yes, in general. If you’re talking about true crime literature, that’s out of my lane. As an author of mysteries, I create separate in-depth backgrounds for each major and supporting character. It allows me to know what makes them who they are and how they might respond to situations they encounter in the novel.
JS: On that note, what does the novel tell us about yourself? Do you think your novel mirrors your life in a way?
LDM: No one character is a specific person, and I include myself in that. I pay close attention not to make the characters after anyone in particular. Having been a doctor and co-founder of two personal growth organizations, I have met many people with personalities that vary just as much. Green Haven mirrors a great deal about the people I have met in my life. Perhaps the main character, Nurse Arden, has a small similarity to me, in that she learned to do her job, and that’s who she was until she had to up-root everything to find out what she wanted.
JS: We are all facing aging and decaying and, with that, the possibility of being patients in a nursing home. People may be fearful of being subjected to abuse and mistreatment. What words do you have for them?
LDM: If you’re considering a nursing facility for you or a loved one, do the research. Ask around, ask others who know the facilities or have lived in them. With our population getting older and with the need for extended post-op rehabilitation, many more people are doing short-term stays in these facilities, so the resources are out there.
JS: Tell me about your next projects. I know you have two novels on the way but do you have any upcoming self-motivation/spiritual book or project?
LDM: This goes back to the question of how much to share. Yes, there are two novels on the way. The first is another medical-based story and has me in my editing stages. The second, which I’m writing now, is a humorous throwback novel. Regarding a spiritual book, my wife, Laura and I wrote a mini-book many years ago called “SteppingUp.” Anyone interested in reading it can find it on Amazon. At this time, I don’t have anything else in the mix. Unlike my blogs, I don’t actually make a conscious choice on what books I write. They just come to me.
JS: Finally, we have many people out there who distrust the medical institutions, distrust vaccines, and other medical treatments. What words do you have for them?
LDM: It’s not for me to tell anyone what or who to trust or distrust. I was in the medical field for a long time, so my views are biased. That’s also why I refrain except to say that it’s not just about you when it comes to vaccines. It’s about family members, friends, and the community around you. We need to get back to a world where we don’t have to dodge each other. We are social creatures, so let’s get back to a world where we live without a fear of dying from human interactions. This is also why we need to heal together.
Thank you for granting this interview. It was also very nice to see you during the virtual Pressenza’s fundraising. There, Justin Sight’s performance was incredible. I hope the next time we meet face to face, (and it can also be on Face2Face too, the TV show of David Andersson. LOL)
About the Authors
Author Luca DiMatteo believes that the written word is not an escape, it’s an adventure.
He was a doctor for over 25 years before retiring. He has spent many years working in and around nursing homes. In addition, he has co-founded two personal growth organizations, had his own column and has been published in magazines and newsletters. Luca has been published in Pressenza, The New Haven Register and Aspire magazine. He is a member of the Connecticut Author’s and Publisher’s Association. Throughout his life, he has stayed close to the written word and has found a way to make it part of everything he does.
Writing Green Haven, a novel came to him in a dream. According to the author, the story, and its characters became alive. It was as if they were telling the story to him. He admits he couldn’t type fast enough and often went late into the night trying to catch up.
“Stories are pathways leading to great journeys. And journeys are what make up our lives. So, pick as many pathways as you can and enjoy just as many journeys.”
What lies ahead for Luca is his second, third and fourth novels (currently underway) and his co-hosting of a podcast series entitled The Author’s Way.
Jhon Sánchez: A Colombian-born, Mr. Sánchez, arrived in NYC seeking political asylum where he is now a lawyer. United Tombs of America, one of his short stories, is available in the winter issue of Midway Journal. Last year, Teleport published his short story ‘Handy.’ The DeDramafi, was published on The Write Launch, and Storylandia republished it in issue 36. He was awarded the Horned Dorset Colony for 2018 and the Byrdcliffe Artist Residence Program for 2019. In 2021, New Lit Salon Press will publish his collection Enjoy Pleasurable Death and Other Stories that Will Kill You. For updates, please visit the Facebook page @WriterJhon