About the Author
Bill Hiatt has been teaching English at Beverly Hills High School since 1981. Although teaching has been and remains his first love, he has also been drawn to creative writing of various sorts. From high school on, he wrote short stories, a little poetry, and an earlier novel, finished in 1982. Then the demands of teaching kept Bill away from writing for many years, but the stories within him eventually could not be denied any longer, and Living with Your Past Selves, is his first published novel.
Bill’s ancestors came from a wide variety of European backgrounds, with Celtic groups (Irish, Scottish, Breton, and, as you might guess from this novel, Welsh) being the most well represented. His ancestors settled in America long ago, though, some of them as early as the colonial period. He is a third generation Californian who grew up and still lives in the state.
Character Interview with Taliesin Weaver
How do you get along with your parents?
I’d like to say well, but the truth is they don’t really know who I am anymore, and I can’t risk telling them.
My mom treats me more or less like I might break at any moment. That’s understandable, since four years ago my parents thought I had a breakdown. I can’t tell them that what really happened was that I started to remember all of my past lives, and it took me awhile regain control over that flood of hundreds of years’ worth of memories. She thinks I’m more fragile than I am, that I might flip out again at any moment. Unfortunately, if I told her the truth, she’d be sure I’d already flipped out.
As for my dad, he can’t figure out why I’m different now. He noticed that my interests had changed after I came back from the hospital, but he wants things to go back to the way they were before. That isn’t going to happen, of course, but I can’t explain why. We’re just stuck in a perpetual state of uneasy denial, and there is no obvious way to get out of it.
With all of those problems with your parents, is there anyone you can rely on for support?
Stan is the only friend who didn’t more or less abandon me after the “breakdown.” Actually, he stayed at the hospital all the time, except when his mother ordered him home. Otherwise, nobody could have pried him out with a crowbar. He would support me if I needed it…well, except for the fact that I can’t tell him who I really am, either. Maybe someday. I’d like to; I just can’t figure out how to break that kind of news, and I have the instinctive feeling that telling anyone would seal my doom. Why I think that I couldn’t tell you, though.
Who do you most want to emulate?
I wish there were someone else in my situation that I could model myself on, but I’m not aware of anyone else in all of human history who has been in the same situation. Sure, every so often someone will claim to remember past lives, but not all of them, and not every detail. Frankly, as far as I can tell, most of the people who make that claim are just looking for attention, anyway. I doubt most of them really remember.
I suppose the only person who comes close in any of my lives is Merlin. He didn’t have past life personalities floating around in his head, but he did have to deal with being half-demon, which couldn’t have been easy. As I recall, the situation made him kind of a loner, a little bit like me now. Unfortunately, that’s where the similarity between us ends. Over the course of hundreds of lives, I’ve known many people with big problems—King David and Alexander the Great come immediately to mind—but again, they didn’t have to deal with the same situation I’m in, so I’m still stuck.
What do you want from life?
Right now, I’m ready to settle for staying alive until tomorrow. Knowing that someone is trying to kill me but not knowing who it is or how to stop that person—or thing—pretty much dominates my waking life and quite a few of my nightmares.
What do I want if I manage to survive? I don’t know anymore. The magic I have makes me very good with people and with music. I could become a rock star if I wanted to, I guess, but that feels kind of like a kids’ dream now. Of necessity I’ve had to utilize my past life skills to become good with weapons, but I don’t want to make a career out of being a mercenary. I’ve been told I have the potential to become a wizard greater than even Merlin, but to do that, I would have to give up the life I know, and I don’t want to do that. So where does that leave me in terms of future goals? Exactly nowhere.
If you were granted three wishes, what would you ask for?
Eva, Eva, and Eva. She was my girlfriend when I had my “breakdown,” but she drifted away while I was in the hospital. I think the whole experience was too intense for her to handle at that age, but by the time I got out and worked up the courage to talk to her, she was already with someone else and still is. Come to think of it, if I used two of those wishes, one to turn back time four years and the other to keep me from remembering my past lives, I wouldn’t need the third wish because Eva and I would still be together.
The way my life has been working, getting three wishes might actually be a possibility, but there would still be two problems. First, I don’t have any idea why my past life memories came back in the first place. Nothing would prevent the same thing from happening later on in life if I didn’t know how to prevent it. Second, I have no idea who is trying to kill me or why. It could be my secret enemy would have had no interest in me if I had stayed ordinary, or it could be that he or she would have come after me anyway, only as an ordinary guy I would have had no way to defend myself.
In a weird kind of way, maybe my past life memories will be what saves me in the end.
What three things would you take to a desert island?
I suppose if I said Eva, that would make me sound “stalkerish.” Since I can’t guarantee my enemy wouldn’t come after me on the island, I’d have to say White Hilt, my sword, and a couple of musical instruments. My magic is stronger with a little music to help it along.
How do you fall in love? At first sight? Over a long period?
I’ve really only fallen in love once, as you probably have guessed. Eva and I have known each other as long as I can remember. I’m sure exactly when friendship transitioned to love. I think it was in middle school, at least for me. I can’t speak for her.
What parts of loving come easy for you? Hard?
It’s been four years since Eva…well, “broke up,” doesn’t exactly capture the experience, since there was no neat, clean break-up. “Drifted apart” sounds too peaceful. “Ripped apart” might be more accurate. Anyway, loving someone from afar isn’t the same thing as having a relationship, so I can’t really comment—unless you want to talk about past life experiences, and then we would be here all day.
When you walk into a room, what do you notice first? Second?
Since I knew someone wanted to kill me, I make sure I know where all the exits are. Then I scan the room for any unusual things, supernatural or otherwise. Particularly with shape shifters in play, a guy can’t be too careful. Anyone could turn out to be an enemy.
When you walk into a room, what do you expect people to notice about you?
Unless we’re talking about Eva, hopefully as little as possible. Keeping in mind that I need to keep secret who I really am, I try to be as inconspicuous as possible. In fact, I often use a spell that causes people not to notice me. Gliding around town under everybody’s radar may be lonely, but it’s also safer than the alternatives.
Describe yourself to me.
Where do I even start? The physical part is easy. I’m pretty ordinary, actually. I’ve been told girls find me attractive, but given the way I feel about Eva, I haven’t encouraged any other interest, so it’s hard to tell how much there might have been. I’m brown haired, medium height, slender but pretty muscular. (I was always athletic, but the weapons training necessitated my buffing up a little).
A personality description is much harder. There is who I was four years ago: the happy, social, soccer playing, bad musician. Then there is who I am now: the brooding, isolated, secretly sword-swinging, concert quality musician. I guess I liked music either way, but almost everything else is different. Sometimes I think that earlier me is still alive in me somewhere. Other times I fear I am just a compromise among my past life personalities and that who I was supposed to be in this life is pretty much dead. I think I am that person, but I’ve long since lost track.
Did you turn out the way you expected? The way your parents predicted?
Isn’t that kind of obvious? I’m not who anyone expected me to be, myself included. I’m…out of place, sort of like an intruder in my own life. I’d like to say I’m a work in progress. Now, if I just knew what I was progressing toward, that would really be something.
What do you consider are your strengths?
As I’ve said, I’m a pretty awesome musician these days, thanks to the original Taliesin. I’m a better swordsman than he was. I sort of have to be if I want to survive. I’m easily the top of my class in magic…which is my subtle way of reminding you that no one else in my class can do magic. I’m best at manipulating people’s minds, though I only do that when I absolutely have to in order to keep my secret or to protect somebody. No, really! If I ever gave into the temptation to do what I really wanted, I might just enchant Eva into loving me again, and that would be bad…really bad.
What do you consider are your weaknesses?
I feel helpless most of the time. I don’t know who is trying to kill me or how to stop that person—if it even is a person. (There are several other possibilities, some of them pretty nasty.) I don’t really know what to do about most of my problems. I know there must be solutions, but if so, I can’t see them.
I guess part of the problem is that I can’t find a way of moving on, as you must have guessed from the Eva situation. In more than one way, I’m a prisoner of the past.
What is one physical attribute you are proud of?
I don’t really know. I’d say ask Eva, but I bet she wouldn’t know what to say either at this point.
What one physical attribute would you change?
I’d like to be even stronger, mostly for survival reasons. I work out as often as I can. I could probably speed up the process with magic, but I’m a little afraid to do that since the original Taliesin left me no experience in that area to guide me. Magic can be powerful, but precisely because of that, it can be dangerous if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing.
If you could be an animal, what would it be?
The funny thing about that question is that I actually could be an animal. Celtic spell casters can typically shape shift, and the original Taliesin was certainly no exception, though he didn’t use that ability frequently. Frankly, the whole idea scares me. I’d rather stay in human form. Fewer things can go wrong then.