A Lithuanian-Australian writer Kristina Dryža is better known in the world of business and management as one of the most influential futurists, trend forecasters, and business consultants, who worked with companies such as Virgin Group, Microsoft, and British Sky Broadcasting. Kristina says that many still do not know that she is also the author of the novel Grace and the Wind released in 2014. I asked Kristina a few questions about writer’s craft, her first book, and future plans.
– How did you become a writer?
I always loved to write as a teenager, mainly in my journal, kept from my parents’ prying eyes. I didn’t really enjoy writing assignments at school or essays at university. I didn’t like writing to perform, to prove, to justify – for results. I had more fun crafting messages in Christmas and birthday cards for my friends, and sharing my overseas travel experiences in postcard form, when writing postcards was de rigueur in the pre-internet era.
– Do you identify yourself as an Australian writer, Lithuanian-Australian writer or just a writer? Or maybe it depends on certain situation?
It’s taken me a while to identify as a writer as I’ve been known as a futurist for so long. Many people don’t even know I’m an author, and most of the interviews I do, the journalists only want to ask me questions about my futures work. The future is always a more interesting topic for them!
I’ve always identified as being Lithuanian as I went to a Lithuanian Saturday school in Adelaide, Australia for most of my childhood and teenage years to learn the language, the traditional folk songs and dancing, and to participate in the scouts and sports groups.
– You’re a very successful business consultant and trend forecaster. Do these two activities complement each other or, on the contrary, get in each other’s way? How do you accommodate both of them?
My work as a futurist gave me the ability to recognise how cultural and mythic narratives operate and influence societies and the role storytelling plays in the psyche. Most of my commercial work now focuses on archetypal consulting and decoding patterns, signs, symbols and their meaning and this lends itself well to my life as a writer.
Following a creative path requires a courageous and unshakable connection to intuition, inspiration and imagination. I’m lucky that whether I’m teaching, speaking at a conference, facilitating a workshop, or writing, I can draw on all three in my everyday life.
– How do your write and when you write, given that you lead a very active professional life?
It’s like when you meet a chef that doesn’t cook, a singer that doesn’t sing, or a writer that doesn’t write – they’re miserable. The artist not practicing their art is a danger to themselves and the general public. I thought to create, to be devoted to a craft, required the perfect set-up of conducive conditions, but it’s almost never that way. Actually, it’s never that way!
The conditions to write are never glamorous, ideal or suitable, but you still have to write. There comes a point when it becomes more painful not to write, than to write, and I reached that last year and so now, no matter how busy or jetlagged or unmotivated I am, I write.
I write because I’m possessed by an idea, not because I think I have a good idea. The idea has me. It’s almost like I have no choice in the matter. The story needs to be expressed and I’m the vessel to bring that particular idea through into form. A few months ago when working on my current novel, it dawned on me that while I thought I was writing a book, the book was actually writing me.
– In 2014, your first book Grace and the Wind came out. How did you come up with the idea for the book?
While I’ve always been fascinated by how the cycles, seasons and rhythms of nature influence humans (I studied indigenous cosmology at university as part of my anthropology degree), it was only when I was living in Tokyo that the importance of seasonal living impressed itself upon me.
Seasonal, circadian, lunar and tidal patterns don’t just form the background to our lives – they are our lives. We’re comprised of rhythms and exist within the rhythms of nature. Most of my clients at that time wanted me to comprehend cycles of business and attitudinal change, but really the most important cycles to perceive and experience are nature’s. And so I began merging my expertise of global trends with the nuances of nature’s rhythms as a framework for perceiving the changing world.
As a child I always felt a connection to the Wind. My work with the emerging future means I spend a lot of my time with what’s invisible – the intangible, the unformed, the unmanifest – and so it felt very natural for me to create this character. High school is often where we have our most intense experiences, usually as they’re our first encounter and they affect us so deeply, which is why I wanted the character Grace to be a teenager. And the ‘concept’ of grace has always been a mystery to me and so the novel was the perfect place to explore this.
– How was the book received?
There’s actually more interest in the book now than when it was first released. My work as a futurist taught me to develop a strong tolerance threshold to the unknown, the uncertain and the unfamiliar – that’s been my default playing field for two decades. But events like Brexit and Trump’s presidential election caused many people to question what’s actually predictable, what’s certain and the role fate and destiny, free will and predetermination, synchronicity, chance and choice play in outcomes.
There’s more people waking up and wanting to view their personal world from a non-linear perspective, rather than a linear one, and to consider the global world from a spherical and holographic lens, not a one-dimensional viewpoint. That’s perhaps one reason why Grace and the Wind has become more popular in recent years.
– Grace and the Wind is a blend of allegorical fiction and self-help literature. Was it something you chose intentionally?
Absolutely! I feel we mostly learn through story, as well as allegory, parable, symbols, dreams, metaphors, images, myths and poetry. I found (in my own personal experience) that self-help books, which were left brain, analytical, with five steps to this or five rules for that, never added any richness to my life. They provided information, but never left an imprint on my soul.
Purely rational texts don’t touch me in a way that inspire an inner transformation, or to reimagine how I see myself in the world, or where I fit within a changing macro narrative. The words didn’t live on in me and become part of my being.
– The genre of self-help books has a lot to do with the educational aspect. Grace, the main heroine of your book, grows up and matures as a woman with the help of a mysterious character, Wind. Where does this strive for teaching come from? Why is it important to you to help others to find their own Wind and the place in the world?
Well, in the words of Galileo Galilei, “We cannot teach people anything; we can only help them discover it within themselves.” Growing up I didn’t have the wise words of a mentor whispering in my ear, and I felt starved because of this, and so I thought there must be others hungry for a resource like the character of the Wind too.
Many western people can’t rest in the knowledge of their own worth, their own light, their own beauty. They compensate for feelings of low self-worth by pushing themselves excessively and don’t realise they’re worth far more than destroying themselves. Or they compromise themselves to belong and it’s never worth the price. Or they isolate themselves with loneliness. Or chase dreams not meant for them. Or their goals are motivated by shame.
I’ve done all of these things many times over and so feel a deep empathy and compassion to other people’s pain. But there’s untold grace, wisdom and resilience that emerges from the depths of our struggles. It’s why my current writing references mythic stories, which are archetypal truths, as I feel that it’s really only in mythology that our suffering, our vulnerability and destiny is mirrored back to us in an honest way. We’re exposed to the full spectrum of what it means to be a human being.
– Who are your literary (and other) teachers?
The myths are really my teachers. Like Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “He who cannot draw on three thousand years is living from hand to mouth.” Life experience has taught me that to truly know ourselves we must know the gods and goddesses, for they are each a style of consciousness and a metaphor for our actions, and are still influencing us today.
And great works of art teach me too. When you view an artwork where you know the artist went through a process of aridity and transformation and transcendence, and just by your eyes glancing at the art, that the power of the artist’s realisation is also conferred to you. I mean, wow! It’s like a living transmission.
I’d say though that my biggest teacher is nature. It’s really the essence of Grace and the Wind and there’s a line in the book that says: “Grace, remember, you cannot break the rhythms of nature, only yourself against them.”
– Would you say that you’ve found a niche for yourself as a writer or you’re still on the path of finding one?
I’m hoping with my new novel to have found a path that brings all my interests together, but only when it’s published will I know if the material strikes a chord with the readers! It’s a modern tale about the descent to the underworld in Greek mythology – focusing on the myth of Hades and Persephone – and how to journey to the underworld of yourself.
– Would you like your books to be translated into Lithuanian and read by a Lithuanian reader? Would that change what and how you write?
I’d love for my books to be translated in Lithuanian and to be read by a Lithuanian audience. It’d be a dream come true to have my books stocked in the bookstores of my homeland. I’ve already started sketching the outline for my third novel and it’s based in the forests of Lithuania and I’m looking forward to returning and immersing myself in the research process.
– What is your relationship to Lithuanian literature? Do you have favorite Lithuanian writer(s)?
With my love of mythology I’ve been heavily influenced by the work of Marija Gimbutas and a highlight for me was visiting her personal library in California.
– Do you know any Lithuanian-Australian authors? If you do, do you get together and/or keep in touch with each other?
I know there are a few other authors in different states of Australia but as I travel overseas with my work for most of the year, I’ve not had the chance to personally meet them, but we’re friends on Facebook and I follow their activities with interest.
– What expectations did you have for the First World Lithuanian Writers Forum which took place this May in Vilnius? Did the forum fulfill those expectations?
A group of writers gathering together is always a good thing as writing is such a solitary activity. I didn’t have any expectations from the forum other than to meet my fellow compatriots and to share our creative trials, tribulations, joys and successes, and to discuss how we can be of support and assistance to each other, as well as how our writing can benefit our homeland.
The Lithuanian Ministry of Education and Science also invited the writers to visit some local high schools and I really enjoyed spending time with the students discussing creativity, innovation, leadership, entrepreneurship and the discipline of writing. It’s so important to be able to give back to the community and to encourage young people to pursue their creative passions.
I feel I’m always changed by the people I meet and the experiences I’m exposed to. A fragment of me remains with them – and them me – and they enrich my character. The time spent in Vilnius with the other writers earlier this year has influenced my writing in subtle and non-subtle ways, but mostly by inspiring me to spend more time in Lithuania.
– More than once you’ve been to Lithuania. What does draw you to come here?
The nature. There’s something about the particular colour of green in Lithuania that’s incomparable to anywhere else. I especially love the pine forests of Druskininkai. It’s the place I feel most myself in the whole wide world.