Author Draws From Lived Experience in Story of Philosophy & Betrayal


Dialogues With the Wise Woman by Richard Todd Devens

Matters of the mind and heart, and right and wrong, are contemplated deeply in Dialogues with the Wise Woman (Gatekeeper Press) by Richard Todd Devens, a loose novel that provides a vehicle for the author to communicate his life philosophy in a storytelling format.

“Often,” writes Devens, “when someone is in acute emotional pain and is experiencing severe anguish, there is no time to explore someone’s upbringing and context … An exhaustive exploration of one’s infancy and adolescence might hold clues as to the ‘why,’ but the wise woman would be more concerned with the ‘how.’”

The fictitious wise woman in this case is 67-year-old psychologist/philosopher Mildred Markowitz, that rare therapist who doesn’t tolerate any bull or tell people what they want to hear. She attacks and solves problems “like a dentist extracts a rotten tooth.”

Here, Devens examines his own work with surgical precision, giving us an insight into the intentions and motivations, and how his protagonist’s story mirrors his own.

Q: How would you characterize the relationship between George, the patient/protagonist, and Mildred, his therapist, and how is it different from most typical patient/therapist relationships?

A: Mildred is not only George’s therapist, but his teacher. She doesn’t believe in time limits during sessions, does not tolerate interruptions except in an emergency, does not tell patients what they want to hear, and does not sugarcoat anything. She is action oriented, and believes that all the motivational talk in the world will have little effect if the patient is not proactive in his or her treatment. They must take specific actions toward the solution of their pain, suffering, dilemmas and problems. She also stresses that transcendence in all aspects of our lives involves risk.

Q: What drives George, and what is he seeking?

A: George is unhappy, as well as unfulfilled socially, sexually and professionally. He also cannot deal with his pain, rage and frustration. He needs direction, structure, focus and someone that not only cares for him, but has the skill, knowledge and wisdom to point him in the right direction.

Q: Why did you set up your book in the unusual format of primarily a dialogue between patient and therapist rather than traditional narrative?

A: As I wrote in my preface, I did not want to confine myself to the constraints or “rules” of fiction. Dialogue affords me the opportunity to explore both sides of an issue, to play devil’s advocate, and to hopefully arrive at a solution through deductive reasoning … in the same manner as geometric proofs.

Q: What are some of the central themes that are explored between the two?

A: Some of the central themes explored are: why treating yourself with love and respect is of paramount importance; why self-esteem is necessary; how our actions contribute to the achievement of self-esteem; why letting evil people occupy our thoughts is an exercise in self-flagellation and abuse; why having integrity, loving ourselves, and treating ourselves with respect is the best “revenge.”

Q: How does your own background and experience affect and influence your story?

A: I am a pianist, so I made George one. That way, I could relate to his life’s passion, as well as to the insecurities, frustrations and related issues that come with the territory.

Q: What was the most challenging part of the book to write?

A: I wanted to try to take a depressed, angry person who was suffering with feelings of hate, revenge, insecurity, hopelessness, and worthlessness who — through the guidance of a caring, loving, skilled, but at the same time, no nonsense therapist, and by taking specific actions and changing his attitude and thoughts — achieved transcendence.

Q: What do you hope readers take away from this book?

A: Like Geroge, I was also scammed by a Las Vegas con artist. Writing this book afforded me the opportunity of taking a painful experience and using it as motivation to write this book. That way, it could serve as a catharsis.

I am sure that most readers have similarly done stupid things and have been hurt by evil people. I wanted to have them realize that if we learn from these situations, the situations don’t define us. I also wanted to illustrate that when we are going through hard times, suffering from depression and feelings of hopelessness, all of these things can be reversed … even if we cannot imagine that they will. As Mildred explains to George, at these times, we don’t have the benefit of hindsight.

Richard Todd Devens is a professional pianist, piano instructor, award-winning writer, and speaker. His last book, Rational Polemics, was the recipient of four awards and is considered must reading for open-minded people who think outside the box. As a speaker, he speaks on a wide array of topics, but his favorite genre is motivational speaking. As a child, he was put away in an institution from the age of 7 to 13. He has endured physical and emotional abuse, feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, extreme poverty and debt and severe depression. But he is a firm believer in the power of the human spirit, self-responsibility and transcendence. He stresses that you can learn from the past, but you cannot do it over. He does not tell people only what they want to hear; he tells the truth without sugarcoating it.

Publish Date: February 8, 2024

Genre: Fiction, Philosophy

Author: Richard Todd Devens

Page Count: 238 pages

Publisher: Gatekeeper Press

ISBN: 9781662933219

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