Daphne Rose Kingma has always written books about love and relationships.
Her her latest, The Magical World of Madame Métier, is a “Spiritual Fairy Tale” about love, romance and friendship meant to empower women to discover and follow their destinies. Métier is the French word for “an occupation or activity that one is good at.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Daphne when her book, The Future of Love, released 18 years ago. I was transformed by that book, by our chat and Daphne’s unique wisdom about relationships. As it turned out, her powerful insights about how the soul guides us to true love inspired me deeply and influenced my approach to ministering to couples when I became a wedding officiant. The night of my ordination I was gifted with a copy of her book, Weddings From The Heart, and it too became a great source of inspiration for creating unique ceremonies.
Daphne has spent decades counseling and consulting with couples, and individuals, and writing books on how to make sense of our relationship experiences. As therapist, relationship expert and scribe of countless self-help books, she has touched so many lives with her wisdom, insightful expertise and deep awareness.
It was such a thrill to find that she had taken all her talents and great storytelling skills and poured them into a novel. It was a great joy to interview her again, about this new and exciting addition to her vast body of work.
Laurie Sue Brockway: You are so well known for your self-help and relationship books. What inspired you to write fiction?
Daphne Rose Kingma: Long before I wrote self-help books, I was a poet and fiction writer. When my work as a therapist took off, I was invited to write many books on the topic of love and relationships. Since I was keenly aware that people were deeply in need of information, understanding and encouragement about the challenges and mysteries of human loving relationships, I, finally--at the insistence of a dear friend--wrote my first best-selling book, Coming Apart: Why Relationships End and How to Live Through the Ending of Yours. Over the years, it was followed by a dozen others, including The Men We Never Knew, The Future of Love and The Ten Things to Do When Your Life Falls Apart.
The truth is that in writing self-help books, I was writing what I had always written about in my early fiction and poetry: Love. (And, by the way, what else is there, really, to write about except love? Every story is in some way a story about love--love’s capacity to change us and to heal us—or what, in the absence of love, becomes of us and our world.)
For me, The Magical World of Madame Metier was a homecoming, the return to a way of writing that I had always enjoyed, but had never had enough time to really explore.
So glad you’ve found your way back! Fiction requires access to another part of the brain from non-fiction. How was that process for you, of finding your novelist voice?
It was very natural and joyful, a complete delight to play with the delicious possibilities that language provides—to have fun, to express my imagination, and deliver it in story form. It was delicious for me to entertain rather than explain, to entice rather than instruct.
For me as a writer--and I believe also for my audience--the fanciful, freewheeling, expansive use of language opens the door to the kind of felt emotional experiences that are generally more difficult to arrive at through works of non-fiction. Language in itself offers that gift, and I have always loved surrendering to that part of my brain that entices me with words and takes me on and adventure, rather than the part of it that bangs me over the head with an idea, then forces me to lasso the words with which to express it--which is what one does with non-fiction..
One reviewer said your new novel, Madame Metier, is reminiscent of the enchanted realism of Alice Hoffman's bestselling novels. Did you have any particular literary inspiration in mind when writing
Not a specific literary inspiration, though I am a big fan of Paulo Coehlo’s, and The Alchemist, with its fancifully unfolding story line and delightfully camouflaged great truths, was certainly captivating.
My actual inspiration was the City of Paris, (where the entire book was written over many years), and the sound of the French I heard being spoken outside my hotel room windows. Each year on my brief vacation, I was ensconced in a world in which—because I don’t thoroughly understand French—everything was a mystery and a possibility.
I learned the word “metier—hearing my father say it at the family kitchen table when I was a child; and I learned then that it meant a very important thing—what one’s true calling in life is. (Earnest Hemingway often spoke of writing as his métier; Winston Churchill spoke of being a statesman as his métier), and when I heard it again, one afternoon it Paris, it grabbed my attention, and that night, with no notion whatsoever of where it might be leading me, I started writing the story.
Your book is considered a spiritual fairy tale. Sounds like a new genre! What makes a spiritual fairy tale different from the ones we are used to?
Yes, I have coined (and copyrighted) this phrase. A spiritual fairy tale is one which has as its core intention the delivery of spiritual truths. Thanks to Bruno Bettelheim, we know that regular, old fashioned fairy tales have great value in delivering us to psychological truths and psychological healing, that they offer valuable teachings about people, life, and the human condition. What is offered in a spiritual fairy tale is information about our souls, our spiritual destinies, and the meaning and power of Love, which is our eternal essence.
Madame Metier, like so many women, puts aside her talent for creating healing botanical creams because her husband does not approve. But she rediscovers it after his death. How does her rediscovery of this sacred craft renew her life?
Yes, Madame Metier is a woman –like so many of us--on the classical feminine hero’s journey, one in which a crisis sets her on a quest for the depth, the gifts and the purpose of her life. Along the way—as in the typical male hero’s journey--she encounters many external obstacles and is joined by many beneficent helpers. But unlike the trajectory of the male journey, she comes to discover herself through the feminine, the inner transformations of emotion and spiritual awakening which ultimately allow her to move forward with her external calling—her métier.
Reclaiming her life’s work brings her daily joy and delight, financial ease (as all our true works should), good company, and love. Ultimately, it delivers her to the transcendent peace of being in alignment with her soul’s true purpose.
How unique was it for her to follow her joy to create healing products? How many women of her day were able to do that? And how can it inspire women today?
Madame Metier was certainly an exception for a woman “of her day”—although, of course, we don’t know exactly what “her day” was. But like Rosie the Riveter, who, in World War II, was forced by brutal circumstance to discover her occupation, Madame Metier had no choice but to discover hers. For her own time, and for our times, Madame Metier is exemplary of the need of every woman to discover who she is and what she has to give. She also models the deep satisfaction that comes when a woman claims the riches of her talents full-on, and without equivocation, delivers her offerings to the world. For Madame Metier, and for every woman, this is always a challenging journey, but one which, if indeed we are to fulfill our soul’s purpose, we have no choice but to take.
In these difficult times it seems we could all use as spiritual odyssey of self-actualization and empowerment. Do you feel there is a message in the book can help people follow their own journey to renewal?
Yes! And you said it so beautifully, Laurie Sue!
Yes, in these agonizing times, we could all certainly use “a spiritual odyssey of self-actualization.” In fact, I believe that it is only our spiritual self-actualization that can save the world. Madame Metier is important because she reveals that against all odds, women can and must fulfill their destinies, for we are the keepers of the sacred grail of Love, which, no matter how tarnished, violated or obscured it can become in the process of human material life, is the one soul quality that every human being possesses.
It is terribly important on a personal level that Madame Metier fulfilled her destiny; but it is even more important that as a woman she fulfilled her destiny. As a character, she is important because she is a forerunner female archtype for what I call “The Women’s Season,” that is, the current historical epoch in which the male values, priorities and undertakings that--albeit heroically--got us here, have become not only radically irrelevant, but so massively destructive that women must take over the reins.
She didn’t seem all that wild about her husband, but what changes for her when she meets the "mysterious being" who redefines her understanding of human love?
Her husband was the typical male who enjoyed her as an object and as an accomplice to his purposes. The mysterious being she meets—Monsieur Ange—has the unique quality of soul to reveal her essence to her, to give her many experiences of human joy, and to set her on the path of her divine and urgent destiny, which in the end, of course, is far, far greater than the making of creams.
How has your career as a beloved therapist, relationship expert, wise woman, et al, informed or shaped this book?
I have been deeply privileged over the years to offer my gifts of compassion, intuition, presence, internal awareness and deep love to the healing journeys of the many people, both men and woman, with whom I have worked. I have witnessed the power of love to heal and delight, to restore and set one on one’s path. In a very real sense, my learnings from my own work are infused in the pages of the book.
Your character learned about botanicals from her dad? Where did you learn?
From my father, of course. Both of my names—Daphne and Rose—are the names of plants, each of which has exquisite flowers. I, too, walked through many beautiful gardens with my father, and this book-–many years later—is the fruit of many lovely Sunday afternoons.
What is the most important message you want people to take away?
That Love is the big deal. In fact, it’s the only deal. And that we find it and deliver it in many forms—friendship, romance, passion, work, the love with which we undertake our destinies. That Love is what lifts our lives, changes our lives, and in the end, even transcends our lives.
Daphne Rose Kingma
Reminiscent of the enchanted realism of Alice Hoffman’s bestselling novels, Madame Métier and Her Friends weaves together magic, romance, and a powerful bond of friendship in celebration of the female spirit.
Facing destitution after the untimely death of her husband, Madame Métier revisits a long-forgotten talent—the creation of healing botanical creams and lotions. Her rediscovery of this sacred practice marks the beginning of her spiritual odyssey of self-actualization and empowerment. Meanwhile, two eccentric friends of hers begin a passionate affair that ends their respective marriages. Invigorated by their relationship, Monsieur Sorbonne searches for his life’s passion while Mademoiselle Objet helps Madame Métier with her new business. While the couple explores the nuances of their romance, Madame Métier finds herself in a relationship with a mysterious being who redefines her understanding of human love. Just as things are looking up, Mme. Métier’s creams result in a customer’s death, and the three friends face an ordeal of profound doubt, spiritual crisis, and persecution that threatens to tear them apart.
Daphne Rose Kingma brings insights from her self-help books to a modern fairy tale that is both enlightening and entertaining. This is an extraordinary debut about the nature of love and relationships.