Interview with Charles Hayes, author of Tripping – Part 1

Charles Hayes

Charles Hayes, the editor of Tripping : An anthology of true-life psychedelic experiences has been kind enough to lend Psychedelic Press UK his thoughts on psychedelic literature and give us some insights into how Tripping came into existence. In this, part 1 of the interview, we are going to take a look at how the ‘subject experiences’ contained in the book were first brought about and a little about Charles’ own psychedelic history.

It was April 28th 1971 when Charles started his psychedelic experiences with LSD; experiences which he describes as “momentous and often harrowing“. Then in 1983 he heard the tale that became ‘The orgasm death dance’ in Tripping, and had a realization about the prospects of such experiences:

“Psychedelic experiences can indeed be the stuff of literature as they contain all the right characteristics: odyssey, ordeal, suspense, drama, exoticism, revelation, transformation, irony and humor.”

It wasn’t until 1994 that Charles met the lady who was to become his literary agent and the realization started developing into an actualization. He began by tracking down friends whose experiences were the stuff of psy-lit and the book began to quickly develop.

“In April 1995 I moved with my wife and three month old son to Bangkok, where we lived for three and a half years. This was a great place to meet interesting, edgy, displaced ex-patriot type folk – several of whom had psychedelic tales to tell. I taped the stories, transcribed the notes and sculpted the transcripts into readable stories.”

After a contract was signed in 1997 with Viking Penguin, Charles spent the next couple of years extending his research and editing the book before it’s final release in October 2000. Since this time the book has gone through a number of re-prints, which stands as testament to people’s desire to learn about other peoples experiences, good and bad, with psychedelic drugs.

On returning to Bangkok from a holiday Charles was fortunate enough to be given an interview with the increasingly legendary Terence McKenna – thanks to his own editor’s contacts with David Levy, McKenna’s agent – in Hawaii. The interview, which is included in Tripping, added considerable weight to his book. Coupled with this is the fantastic inclusion of a number of Alex Grey’s finest psychedelic artwork.

“Alex was extremely gracious to contribute reproductions of some of his greatest paintings. He was rightly cautious, however, and didn’t agree to do it until he’d read one of my introductory essays.”

It’s been almost a decade since the release of Tripping and PsypressUK asked Charles whether he has any plans to write a follow-up..

“Psychedelics is my favorite topic, but I’m also interested in history and politics and would like to produce something in that vein, perhaps with psychedelics featured as a minor theme, something like Jay Stevens’ fantastic social history of LSD “Storming Heaven” but with drugs playing only a bit part.”

…and if he could offer a piece of advice to someone embarking on writing some psy-lit, what would it be?

“Do your homework, read the literature (as much as you can), don’t be over speculative, evangelical or excessively abstract or beatific, base your case in erudition, history, science and well learned poetic sensibility.”

In part 2 of this interview, PsypressUK questions Charles as to the nature of Psy-lit writing, the books that have influenced him over the years and the wider representation of psy-lit within our culture. A review of Tripping itself will shortly follow along with a brief analysis of some of it’s inclusions.

For more information about Charles and Tripping: An anthology of true-life psychedelic experiences please visit his website:  – You can order personally inscribed copies by the author.

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1 Response

  1. February 21, 2010

    […] of true-life psychedelic adventures’ is a selection of personal accounts, collected and edited by Charles Hayes, of the psychedelic experience. It also includes an extensive interview with Terence McKenna, […]

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