[Interview] Debra Duneier

Debra Duneier is an accredited LEED® Green Associate, a certified Eco-Designer and a Feng Shui master practitioner.

She is also creator of EcoChi® and author of EcoChi: Designing The Human Experience (New Voices Press, 2011).

In this interview, Debra Duneier talks about her concerns as a writer:

Do you write every day?

I write five or six days a week.

I have three blogs. I have two columns that I write weekly. I am a guest writer for a variety of websites and, of course, there is always ... the next book.

My favorite place to write is in my outdoor office on the North Fork of Long Island. Surrounded by organic farms, vineyards and the Long Island sound with my feet firmly planted in nature, my creative juices flow! This is where my first book, EcoChi: Designing the Human Experience was written.

What would you say led you to create the EcoChi design system?

It is exhilarating and not really surprising that all the hard work and the years of accumulating knowledge in a variety of disciplines led me to the creation of the new design system I call EcoChi®.

EcoChi is built on a solid foundation of three basic, tried and true ingredients: classical feng shui, green and sustainable living, and environmental psychology.

As I studied and undertook new projects, my findings exhilarated me. I could clearly see how environmental psychology could be integrated with feng shui and green and sustainable practices to enhance and deepen the human experience in our indoor spaces and in our world. This is how EcoChi was born.

What made you decide to write EcoChi: Designing the Human Experience?

I knew the EcoChi system of design would make positive changes in peoples’ lives, projects and businesses but I had no idea how powerful and transformative EcoChi would be - not until my clients called me and shared their stories. Once the mind-blowing potential of EcoChi revealed itself to me, I decided that I wanted to reach as many people as possible and the best way to do that was to write a book. Since this is my first book I hired an editor and I was on my way ...

The book was published by New Voices Press and has been available for purchase since September 17, 2011.  The book creates awareness that life is lived the way it is designed and offers readers the tools to create indoor spaces that support their goals both personally and professionally and at the same time propagate environmental integrity.

How long did it take you to write the book?

It took me two years to complete  EcoChi: Designing the Human Experience although I feel it is the culmination of my life experiences that has brought me to this place and time.

I have been asked many times, “What kind of book did you write and who is your audience?”

I should have my elevator speech down by now but I don’t. I will affectionately say that the book is a little 'schizophrenic.' It talks about my journey leading up to the creation of EcoChi, basics about the core disciplines that make up the system and, mostly, it is about the transforming experiences of my clients.

As people shared their stories with me I knew I had to write about their revelations.

The target audience for EcoChi: Designing the Human Experience is anyone interested in the design of indoor spaces and how it influences the inhabitants of those spaces. It is also inspirational, educational, and has easy to implement tips so I guess it can be considered a self-help book as well.

How did you choose a publisher for the book? 

New Voices Press is a small publisher in New York. I selected a small publisher because I was told by other authors that a large publisher would add another two years to the process. This is the moment in time when people are ready for the concept covered in my book. I knew that the world would be receptive to EcoChi today. That created an urgency to find the fastest route to market.

The biggest challenge with a small publisher is that they offer little or no publicity - so it is up to me to get the word out about the book.

I hired a PR company for publicity and a marketing and business development professional to help me get the word out about the book.

Which were the most difficult aspects of the work you put into the book?

Sitting down to write the first chapter of my book was the most difficult moment of the process. This was because I had a preconceived idea about what the book should be, but the words flowing onto the page did not resemble my outline. The only way out of this difficult time was to keep writing and to allow the book to take on a life of its own - and it did.

I see myself as a story teller - so, the moments that I enjoyed writing most were when I told the tales of the people who experienced EcoChi first hand. Describing their faces, challenges, goals and outcomes, for me, was like creating a sculpture and having the opportunity to share it.

What sets EcoChi: Designing the Human Experience apart from other things you've written?

Most of the articles and columns that I write are focused on subject matter, tips and products.

EcoChi: Designing the Human Experience is a book is about people. It is micro because it is about specific people and their lives and about particular projects and interior spaces. It is macro because we can see ourselves, our loved ones, our friends and our neighbors through the lives of others. It speaks to residences, offices and public spaces and the planet as well.

The ribbon that runs through all of my writing to date is helping others to have a better life and, as a result, a better world.

EcoChi: Designing the Human Experience is my most significant achievement as a writer to date. As people read the book, I am told, even the most unlikely candidates are moved to action. The fact that my book has already been a positive influence in people’s personal and work lives is something I am very proud of. I am humbled by the power of EcoChi.

What will your next book be about?

My next book will be EcoChi: Recipes for a Better Life. These recipes will include step by step EcoChi instructions for interior design, creativity, work life, celebrations, loss, wellness, life crisis and turning points.

When did you start writing?

At age nine, I wrote my first poem, which I called “A Room with Four Walls.” At that age writing was a personal outlet for me. I had a difficult childhood and there was no one to talk to. A blank page was the safest place for me to express my fears and pain - it couldn’t lash out at me. I was out of harm’s way when I was in school and also the public library. Books became my first love. The novels that I read acted like a magic carpet ride creating possibilities of a better life ahead, in my mind and in my soul.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

The biggest challenge that I face as a writer is insecurity.

This is my first book and as I said earlier, I hired an editor to guide me through the process. At first, I took whatever she said as truth - after all she was so much more experienced than me. Things like, "This belongs in your autobiography not this book", or, "Save this for your novel!"

I called my son Jamie in LA who is a writer for NBC’s Parenthood and explained to him my creative process. When I sat down to write, the words were flowing through me like a natural spring. There were stories to tell and they were at my fingertips. But I was concerned because the professional advice I was getting was that EcoChi was not the book where I should tell those stories.

Jamie listened patiently and then said, "Mom, remember to stay honest and true to your own voice."

Even today those words help to navigate me through the most challenging days of writing.

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