My most recent book is How Children Become Violent: Keeping Your Kids Out of Gangs, Terrorist Organizations, and Cults. I have worked with violent youth and adults my entire career. In this book, I have written about how these young people became violent and how to prevent them from continuing or getting to be that way. There are professional and parent versions of the book.
Tell us something about yourself.
I am a psychologist and I have been lecturing and writing about violence for over 30 years. I have worked in prisons and for juvenile justice, mental health and substance abuse programs. That unique mix has given me a perspective on violence that is also unique.
What inspired you to write this book?
One day, when working as a psychologist in a prison, an inmate (who was not thought to be dangerous) grabbed me by the throat and I thought he was going to kill me. I said to myself, “That is the last time I will be in a position of not knowing whether someone is dangerous or not.” I have been studying violence since then.
How did you choose the title?
I am basically a very straight forward person and “How Children Become Violent” really describes what the book is about.
What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?
I had published the CARE: Child and Adolescent Risk Evaluation through a traditional publisher. When it came time to publish the book, I felt I had more freedom if I self published. What I discovered was that self publishing is very rewarding and very expensive. Instead of having a team of very talented people working on your book, you have to pay for every service. So, while I still like the freedom of self publishing, I am going back to traditional publishing with my next book, which I am now writing.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
I knew I wanted to write from the time I could hold a pencil. It was all I ever wanted to do. But to write, you have to have something to write about. I went about living my life until my passion for my work with people with violent behaviors pushed me to write and lecture about my experiences. I love my work and I love writing. What a life! Who could ask for more.
Do you have any writing rituals?
I do not have writing rituals. However, an idea will roll around in my head and then start to “write itself” in my head. When it gets too big or complex to stay in my head, it begs me, pushes me, and screams at me to write it down. I can’t do anything else until I write it down. I keep my computer with me at all times. Right now I am on the top of a gorgeous mountain in West Virginia in the middle of nowhere. But, I have my computer and I am writing.
How do you come up with the names for your characters?
I use some real names for famous people who have been violent like Ted Bundy. Otherwise, as I say in my book, I make up names for the people in my book to protect the innocent and the not so innocent.
Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?
I am constantly learning more about writing, publishing, PR, and people who are violent.
If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?
I really would not change a thing, because I feel that everything I did led me to where I am.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?
I don’t read much fiction anymore, but I always enjoy a good mystery or psychological thriller such as James Patterson, Patricia Cornwell, and Dan Brown. Otherwise I read non-fiction books on violence.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
I am writing a comprehensive professional volume on youth violence for Springer. It will have significant more detail and cover many more topics than the first book. After that, I am working on a book on adult violence.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
The best advice someone gave me was to review and correct your work over and over again until you are nearly sick of it. It will improve every time you rewrite it.
Self Publishing is a good way to get started, but if you are serious and you are good, work with traditional publishers.
Write about what you know best and what you are passionate about. That is how you do your best work.
Who is the perfect reader for your book?
The book is written for professionals who work with youth who are at risk for violence, such as teachers, counselors, and psychologists. There is a smaller parent version, which is good for parents, and community members who are worried about youth violence in their community.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?