During my career as a hypnotist, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a lot of wonderful clients. One of those clients is author Tavera Del Toro. Tavera has been generous enough to take some time out of her busy writing schedule to let me interview her about her experiences with hypnosis and her body of work. If you are not familiar with Tavera’s writing, you can find links to her books and blog below.
How did you become an author?
I always loved the horror genre. At five years old, I was scaring myself to death watching Nosferatu, Dracula, and The Wolfman. My parents were way too lenient, my mom is a lifelong horror fan, so it may be genetic. My dad hated horror films and novels; he’d start getting squeamish at the first murder or death in a movie.
Back to the question, Stephen King turned me on to horror novels. I filled my teenage years with reading many of his books: The Stand, Pet Cemetery, Carrie, and The Shining, among many other authors like Clive Barker, Shirley Jackson, Ramsey Campbell. I also read older authors like E. A. Poe, Machen, and Lovecraft. If they had a catchy, or creepy tale, I would read them.
A few years ago, I found myself in a funk. My bucket list wasn’t shrinking, so I knew I needed to fix my life, and I hired a life coach. She was great. She kicked my rear, and I began to write my first book, and soon a few others came out. I always dreamed of being a writer, and it became a dream come true of sorts.
What types of books do you write?
I write horror/ supernatural stories. I am more into psychological horror and ghosts, and demons. But I have a few vampiric tales and throw in a bizarre creature, or being in the mix. My stories center more on the internal strife going on in people’s minds when they confront supernatural events or beings. Or just evil minds.
Blood and gore don’t rate high in my storylines; I stay away from bloodthirsty stories and focus on emotional horror or fear.
What draws you to that genre?
Horror/ supernatural subjects and stories always caught my eye. When I was a kid, my father was a fan of the supernatural and had books, and encyclopedias on supernatural topics, like UFOs, Bigfoot, lizard people, devils, witchcraft, and ghosts; anything one could imagine. He let my sisters, and we read anything we wanted, which maybe wasn’t the best choice, considering those photos of naked folks holding satanic ceremonies in some of those books.
I have had a fascination with the spooky and macabre most of my life; it’s just a pull and magnetic attraction. The thought of mysterious beings or events just makes me wish of a magical, and unknown world, lurking out there. This just excites me. I am terrified of horrible beings. Or entities. I expect them to come for me. Even to this day, zombie movies will screw with my sleep for days.
When you first tried hypnosis, what did you expect?
Having seen too many movies, I suspected hypnosis was a brain-altering method that people can use to brainwash unsuspecting targets. The spinning wheel, or swinging jewelry, and I would dance like a chicken in no time. Or worse, I could be a new Manchurian Candidate or see the past as Regan did in The Exorcist II.
I believed it would put me deep into a trance, so powerful that I would lose consciousness, and unaware of my behavior, or have secret codes to a program to do certain actions. I expected weird.
What was the experience of hypnosis like for you?
I contacted my hypnotist, Yvonne Judge, and she informed me what the actual process would entail, and it did calm my fears down a bit. After my first session, I was very calm and relaxed. The actual process was subtle, like being in a yoga class as the instructor talks to your group into meditation and you visualize actions. It was like a short film being directed inside my mind. The actual hypnosis lasted less than thirty minutes. I was aware of my surroundings, never lost consciousness or felt out of control. It was a peaceful direction. It works on a subtle level, not like a magician show’s act. You come off the state feeling very calm and relaxed, and for me, it took several months to actualize my goals with more determination and focus. I took a gigantic step towards my current transition, a step I never believed I would realize.
There is a history of using hypnosis as a plot point in horror films and novels. As someone who has experienced hypnosis do these films present hypnosis in a manner that rings true? Which story was the closest? Which was most incorrect?
Films overrate the actual control of the hypnotist. The brainwashing and loss of control by the subject are exaggerated. I wasn’t directed to do anything against my will or wants. Even if she had attempted to do something sinister, it wouldn’t have worked. My conscious mind was wide awake, I would ignore it or even laugh it off. She strengthened my resolve and goals resolution. It is like a coach who helps an athlete develop their skills and muscles to improve their abilities.
Few, if any films display the powers and abilities of actual hypnosis, instead of focusing on superpowers and mind control and making innocent people do heinous acts.
The closest a film has come to the fact in hypnosis was Stir of Echoes, which Kevin Bacon is hypnotized on a lark and he is led by the hypnotist to visualize scenes. This was like my experience, although I never lost consciousness and have “lost time” as he did. Nary a ghost girl to haunt me as in the film.
Not exactly a horror film, but I thought the scenes in Equus, where the boy is hypnotized by Richard Burton to relieve the scenes where he harms the eyes of horses, seemed very real to me.
The most unrealistic would consist of most films with hypnosis involved in the story. But my overall worst viewed would be the Wizard of Gore. This bloodthirsty film had a cheap stage magician hypnotize beautiful women during his show and hypnotize the audience as well. He would then put the women into various torture devices and saw them in half, stab them while the audience watched silently as he played with the women’s organs like play dough. He would then somehow get the murdered women to rise and go back to their chairs as though nothing had happened and instruct them to only realize they’re dead when they arrive home and allow him to escape murder charges. Beyond logic, reality, it is just silly.
What other writing do you do?
I write movie reviews, and horror-centric articles on horror films on the Morbidly Beautiful web site,
I also guest blog and have over ten million views on the question and answer site, quora.com.
Where can people buy your books? Where can they read your other writings?
My books can be found on my Amazon page. Her books include Horror in the Heart, Revenge Chair and Valentine State: True Tales from my Life and Ills. She is currently working on her next book. You can visit her website here.
You can read my articles on my blog.
Tavera Del Toro Bio
Tavera Del Toro enjoys reading older horror novels, written by Lovecraft, Poe, and Machen, as well as modern writers like King and Ramsey Campbell. Horror films are also a favorite pastime, from The Cabinet of Dr. Calgari, Freaks, and The Wolfman and modern classics like The Host.
Often writing late into the night, Tavera finds solace when the day’s sounds fade, often sitting in the red chair Tavera’s mother warned her children never to sit on.