Welcome, my morbid little miscreants! Join me, your cryptress, Lili DesGhoules, as I dig up and dish out the devilishly delightful dirt from the dark side of the entertainment industry!

Friday, 30 October 2009

Interview: Michelle Belanger

Do vampires really exist?

If you ask Michelle Belanger you would hear a resounding "Yes."

You see Michelle is a real vampire. A "psi-vampire" to be more specific.

She is the founder of House Kheperu, noted occult author, singer, frequent guest on the television show Paranormal State, and she lectures around the country.

Michelle took time out of her busy schedule to do an interview with us here at the Lair. Oh, and by the way: she is a very real, intelligent, and cool person to have a conversation with. Michelle is a five star personality to say the least, and I hope to feature her again here at the Lair.
    Lili's Lair: Michelle, You consider yourself a psi-vampire. Could you please explain what that is, and what that means to you on a personal level?

    Michelle Belanger: A psychic vampire is a person who needs to regularly and actively take human vital energy in order to maintain their mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Psychic vampires are psychic, in that they have an innate awareness of this energy in the first place. It is an energy that people in our culture are generally only aware of on an unconscious level, but it is something that is integral to many Eastern practices, such a Tai Chi, Reiki, and Qi Gong. For me, “psychic vampire” is just one of many labels that can be used to describe an aspect of my life – but it’s a big aspect. A lot of my work with energy and magick as well as all of my psychic abilities tie to this one thing. It is not a negative thing, in my opinion, but an integral part of who I am, and I’ve made it a part of my life’s work to educate people on what real vampires are, dispelling the myths and misunderstandings that grow up around such a culturally loaded term.

    Lili's Lair: How did you come to the decision to form House Kheperu?

    Michelle Belanger: In the mid-90s, I ran something called the International Society of Vampires, and, as the name implies, it was a worldwide organization with a large number of members. We had a newsletter, the Midnight Sun, and what amounted to a penpal network. But in 1996, after working with Jeff Guinn on his book, Something in the Blood, I realized that I’d never really gotten to know many of the vampire folks local to me. So that fall, I started to turn my attention from the ISV to a more local group, based out of NE Ohio. The group that resulted – although nameless at first – eventually became House Kheperu. We were simultaneously a group of friends and a study group, sharing our theories and experiences of psychic vampirism. Eventually, I chose to share those with the world in my book, The Psychic Vampire Codex.

    Lili's Lair: What advice would you give to others who may think they are vampires as well?

    Michelle Belanger: First, rule out all possible medical conditions. There are a lot of very real physical ailments – as well as a few psychological issues, like clinical depression – that have symptoms some mistake for vampirism. Once you are certain that what you are experiencing does not have a root physical or psychological cause, then look into the possibility that it comes down to vital energy. Pay attention to how you interact with the energy of the people around you, and pay attention to how that energy impacts your health and well-being. Spend some time getting to know how this works for you, and track your ups and downs. Don’t look to so-called experts to tell you if you’re vampiric or not (not even me!) – in the end, only you can judge for certain.

    Lili's Lair: You have been a guest on the T.V. show Paranormal State. How did that happen, and what role do you play in their investigations?

    Michelle Belanger: Two cast members of the show, Josh Light and Eilfie Music, were fan of my books before there ever was a show. They brought me out to speak on psychic vampirism as an event hosted by the Paranormal Research Society. Through this convention, I got to know the rest of the team as well, and they came to trust my expertise on a variety of topics, including the history of the occult. When PRS got its own show, I often got calls on the sidelines where they sought my expertise on some of the hauntings. They brought me in as a regular guest starting in second season. Although I’m billed as a “psychic medium” I still also serve as an occult expert and a go-to person when checking up on folklore and paranormal history.

    Lili's Lair: What is the strangest/scariest thing that has ever happened to you whilst investigating, either on Paranormal State or on your own?

    Michelle Belanger: Maybe I’m foolhardy, but it takes a whole lot to really scare me. When objects move on their own when we’re investigating, most peoples have a natural startle reaction. Me, I tend to giggle and ask the ghost to do it again. I guess I just have a really different perspective. We have done some pretty dark cases, where very malevolent entities are involved, and those can be a little intimidating, primarily because, as the psychic, my job description pretty much involves going into the heart of all that darkness with my shields down so I’m as open as I can be to any impressions I can get of the entity. On one of the cases on fourth season, this may have led to me getting attacked. That doesn’t usually happen, but in this case, I felt so bad in the house, I had to step out for a while and pull myself back together.

    Lili's Lair: You also conduct lectures around the country. How did you get involved with that?

    Michelle Belanger: I’ve actually been doing lectures at colleges since 1996. I started as a guest speaker for the local Pagan group at Case Western Reserve University. Since then, I’ve spoken at colleges around the country, and these days I am represented by an agency that helps manage to bookings. Although I still do appearances for small groups on campuses, most of my bookings these days are for the whole school, not just one club. I lecture mostly on the vampire – its evolution through folklore and fiction and how it has become such a powerful pop culture image today. Since I originally had intended to become a college professor when pursuing my degree, these lectures are great fun for me, as they allow me to educate college students on a topic that I love – and I have the freedom to be a little edgy with that topic, since I don’t have to worry about tenure!

    Lili's Lair: Do you find the time constraints lecturing to be difficult considering all of the projects you have going on?

    Michelle Belanger: Time has become more and more of a luxury for me. Between the lecturing and the travel to film with Paranormal State, my schedule is busier than it has ever been. What has really suffered from this is my writing – I find I have less and less time to devote to finishing my books, and that can b difficult. I’m one of those writers who really needs a little quiet time to get going – I like to be home, settled in with my cats. I simply don’t have that luxury these days. So I find myself having to really budget my time and learning to write while on the road so I continue to pursue my first love: my books.

    Lili's Lair: Michelle, you are a very busy woman. You are also a published author of ten books to your credit, why did you decide to write?

    Michelle Belanger: I don’t think writing was so much of a decision for me as a calling. I remember putting my first book together when I was four-and-a-half. It was about my aunt’s dog, Alfie, who had just died, and I wrote, illustrated and bound it myself – though I seem to remember asking for a little help with the stapler! But seriously, writing has been the thing I need to do rather than want to do. The fact that I get my stuff published is simply a side benefit. I’d write no matter what.

    Lili's Lair: How long does it generally take you from start to finish to write one of your books?

    Michelle Belanger: I write at what I’m told is a ridiculously fast rate. When I’m really focused and can devote myself 100% to a project, I can complete the rough draft of a book in a couple of weeks. Of course, that’s after I’ve done all the research, and many of my books are pretty research intensive. Now, all of this does not count how long I will often take to revise and fiddle with the book, changing sections, expanding on concepts and so forth. If left to my own devices, I am perfectly capable of editing and revising the same work for years until I’m completely satisfied with the finished product. So I guess that evens things out. These days, I’ve tried to go a little easier on my books, leaving some of the work for the editors at my publishers’ offices. Because of the pace of publishing, generally speaking, if I’m working on finishing a book right now, readers won’t see it till this time next year.

    Lili's Lair: What do you find the most difficult aspect of writing is for you?

    Michelle Belanger: Believe it or not, I have the hardest time writing fiction. Non-fiction is easy – all the facts are there and there is a very logical way that things go together. I don’t have to worry about what comes next. The facts do that for themselves. But with fiction, even though it’s my first love when it comes to writing, it’s so much harder for me. Plotting out a book, making certain that my characters are realistic and true to life – that take a lot of effort for me. To give you an idea, my recently published novel, This Heart of Flame, was first written in 1998. It’s taken me six or seven full rewrites to be completely happy with the plot, the characters, and how everything goes together in the end.

    Lili's Lair: What is a typical busy day like for you?

    Michelle Belanger: I have two kinds of busy: writing busy, and travel busy. On a writing day, I’m at home. I get up around two in the afternoon, make myself some tea and settle into my writing nook with my two cats, Cornelius and Katya, curled up around me. I’ll write for five or six hours. Sometimes it’s closer to ten. I get up for tea breaks or food, but otherwise, I spend the whole day writing. When I’ve done all the writing I can, I take care of email, phone calls, etc., (fortunately any members of HK that I need to call and talk business with tend to keep late hours like me). A travel day is quite different. I get up way early in order to drive to the location or to catch my plane. If I’m filming with Paranormal State, I can’t always predict when they’ll actually need me that day, but I have to be ready at the hotel and on call. I sleep when I can and I eat when I can because life on the road is unpredictable. I get writing done in the hotel room if I can manage it, otherwise I bring my notes and a few books and do some brainstorming or research.

    Lili's Lair: Of all of the things in which you are involved, which is your favourite?

    Michelle Belanger: Writing, as I’ve said, is my first love. I’d write whether my work got published or not. There’s a poet whose work has had a huge impact on me – Rainer Maria Rilke. He wrote prose in addition to poetry, and he is famous for this collection of his correspondence with a friend, Letters to a Young Poet. Pretty much, the young poet is asking Rilke how he can know whether or not he’s cut out to be a writer. Rilke responds with the advice that he’ll know he’s a writer when he can’t not write. I’m a writer by Rilke’s understanding of the term. I can’t imagine my life without writing something every day.

    Lili's Lair: What would you like the future to hold for Michelle Belanger?

    Michelle Belanger: At the moment, I want the near future to hold the completion of a rather ambitious book project I’ve undertaken. Because of some of the issues with “demonic entities” on Paranormal State, I decided to do this very research-heavy work that catalogues all of the demons given proper names in the Western tradition, from the Bible through the magickal grimoires of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. It’s part dictionary, part history of Western demonology – from a scholarly perspective rather than a theological one. I may really have bit off more than I can chew with this one, and since I’m a stickler for sourcing primary materials, it’s a good thing I can read French and Latin passably well, since my research has taken me to some interesting tomes in those languages. After I finish that book, I hope to continue my relationship with Paranormal State and I really look forward to expanding on my fiction. This Heart of Flame is intended to be the first novel in a series, and I would love a chance to revisit the urban fantasy world of the incubus Matthew Newkirk from that novel.
You can find out all about Michelle at her web site

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