An Interview with Charles McCormack, author of Hatching Charlie
From your other published novels, is there one that is your own personal favourite?
I only have one other published book. It’s a book detailing what to do and the why of doing it in treating couples with one or both spouses in a state of regression, i.e. a borderline mental state. The book, Treating Borderline States in Marriage: Dealing with Oppositionalism, Ruthless Aggression, and Severe Resistance (Jason Aronson 2000), was well received and is still used in training programs in individual and couples psychotherapy.
It is not written for lay people, but I did have lay beta readers to help me write it in a more readily understandable fashion. I have been contacted over the years by people who found the book helpful in understanding their own issues or a family members. For those interested it is available in paperback and on kindle through amazon.
What do you like best about Hatching Charlie?
That it’s raw and it’s real and that it’s a book everyone can relate to. To paraphrase one reviewer: it’s fascinating read and an invitation for the reader to consider his or her own life as they are reading. I particularly appreciate the Midwest Book Reviews critique: “Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, “Hatching Charlie: A Psychotherapist’s Tale” is an inherently fascinating, thoughtful, and thought-provoking read from beginning to end. While unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections, “Hatching Charlie: A Psychotherapist’s Tale” will also prove to be of immense interest to the supplemental studies reading lists of psychology students as well.” That review, so succinctly delivered, assured me that I had accomplished what I set out to do.
Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?
Hatching Charlie is my first novel. I couldn’t put it in the drawer no matter how hard I tried. It was inspired by my elder daughter asking me to fill out one of those books for the grandchildren so they would know a bit about me. I liked the idea, I just didn’t like the venue. Then there was my son who, very successful, at an early age, asked me “Dad. Is this [life] it?” I responded that life was about the pursuit of happiness. Though my answer is accurate, my ability to make the case for it then and there was lacking. So those two seeds, planted by my kids years earlier, sprouted and grew until I could no longer ignore them. This book strives to answer the questions “Who am I?” and “What’s life about?” Along the writing, I discovered that the answers to these questions unfold across the years in the changing roles we each assume. For me it was from abandoned boy to young delinquent, to married man, to father, to grandfather and from psychotherapist, to lecturer, to author, to patient, and beyond. Along the way I discovered not only the cratering impact life’s troubles can have upon us but also the fact that it takes great courage to be happy and that most of us are as happy as we can stand.
Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?
I’ll let you know. I suspect I’m the type of writer that needs to let ideas percolate, but I’m not completely sold on this. In fact, I’ve already been asking myself the question, what now?
I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?
I write at home, in my office, and when I’m traveling. I use my laptop but will make notes of ideas on my cell phone. When I write I often enter a trancelike state that is so captivating that I have been guilty of missing several patient appointments when I’ve actually been in my office. I snapped out of the trance to observe a note slid under my door stating, “We were here. Did we have the wrong day?” They hadn’t wanted to knock on the door fearing that I might be dealing with some emergency. In those circumstances, feeling terribly guilty about wasting their time, I make amends by giving them their next session for free. After all, their time is as important as mine.
Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?
Finding Beta readers is as difficult as getting people to review a book. I recruit family and friends but often they either take forever or are rather parse in their commentary. Then there’s the problem of people “wanting to be nice.” They don’t want to criticize, not recognizing that the true gold of a beta reader is the one that will tell you the real deal. As to editors, I had several friends edit and then explored editorial services. I finally hit upon Margaret Diehl because of the reviews garnered for her editing, the fact she had three books on the honorable mention list of the New York Times, and in our early emails demonstrated a dry wit and great integrity, challenging plot logic and so on. She was tremendously helpful in teaching me to develop the characters to she could see them in her mind and in rearranging chapters and suggesting the creation of chapters to ease the back and forth between my life as a psychotherapist and my life personal life. I learned a lot from her.
I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?
I use to read printed books all the time. I didn’t find the kindle books as welcoming, although they were easier and quicker to obtain. More recently, having a long commute to work, I started listening to audible books and fell in love with them. Some times they don’t equal what I might have created in my mind but many times they add an element I hadn’t considered. My book, Hatching Charlie, is in audible format as well as kindle and print. I prefer the audible because I narrate the book and that gave me the opportunity to “read it” the way I wanted it to be read. Indeed, I did two versions of the audible book because I realized, while recording it, that I could “hear” the book in a different way that led to me to major edits and rewrites. I then updated the kindle and printed formats to accurately reflect the wording in the audible book. I love it!
I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and do you have a favourite author who sticks in your mind from:
1. childhood? I was a poor reader in childhood. I had to go to summer school. “See Dick run!” was about all I could handle.
2. adolescence? Hardy Boys
3. young adult? Trilogy of the Ring; Watership Down; anything by Anais Nin. Books by D.T. Suzuki on Zen Budhissm; Carlos Castenada; Michael Chilton Pierce.
4. adult? For years I only read books on psychoanalytic theory and practice. Then I stopped reading professional stuff and started writing. Since then I’ve read books for personal enjoyment. The Power of One; The Boys in the Boat; any action thrillers that Arnold Schwartzenager could star in and that don’t involve a lot of character development. In other words, I like escape reading to get out of my own mind.
Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?
I manage social media on my own and if I do say so myself I am perfectly terrible at it. My main motivation of late is trying to promote awareness of Hatching Charlie. As an independent author I can’t compete from the top down as they can, so my strategy is to promote my book from the bottom up and hope that people get enough out of it to recommend it to their family and friends, or simply as a support to anyone having a hard time in life and relationships.
Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next?
I haven’t been at it long enough to feel that temptation. And, even if tempted, I doubt that I would do it. Even when I give talks each one is freshly written—I never give the same talk twice. I think the reason is I would get bored with myself. In addition, everything keeps moving, keeps changing, and so my answers to questions today will be slightly different from my answers tomorrow.