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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Amazing Resource for Writers: THE WRITER'S GUIDE TO PSYCHOLOGY

QueryTracker Blogger Carolyn Kaufman’s first book for writers, THE WRITER’S GUIDE TO PSYCHOLOGY: How to Write Accurately About Psychological Disorders, Clinical Treatment and Human Behavior hits shelves today!  

To celebrate, we decided to interview her…and give away a signed copy of her book! To enter the drawing, just comment below.  We’ll announce the winner in Friday’s Publishing Pulse.

Carolyn’s doctorate is in clinical psychology, and she is a former psychotherapist turned full-time psychology professor at Columbus State Community College in Columbus, Ohio.  She is frequently consulted by journalists as an expert source, and her specializations are clinical/abnormal psychology and media psychology.  

THE WRITER’S GUIDE TO PSYCHOLOGY has been praised by bestselling thriller writer and psychologist Jonathan Kellerman as “thoughtful, scholarly, comprehensive and a boon to writers aiming for accuracy when depicting the world of abnormal psychology and clinical treatment.”  Another bestselling author, Jilliane Hoffman, adds, “Every writer who even thinks about creating or explaining a character with a psychological disorder should have a copy on their desk, right next to their dictionary and thesaurus. A well-written, easy-to-read guide to understanding the most complicated of psychological disorders that’s sure to help writers abandon the stereotypes and develop realistic characters.”

Why THE WRITER’S GUIDE TO PSYCHOLOGY? What prompted you to write it and what do you hope your readers will get out of it?

While I was in graduate school [to get a doctorate in clinical psychology], I noticed a lot of discrepancies between what I was learning in class and seeing in my therapy office, and what I saw in movies, books, and TV.  When I started investigating the professional academic literature on misconceptions perpetuated by the media, I saw that the problem is one the psychology field is well aware of.  But part of the problem, it seemed to me, was that the psychological professionals were mostly talking to each other – no one had yet figured out how to bridge the gap between professional psychology and the people producing the media: writers.

As I searched farther, I found some writers’ books dedicated to helping authors get their forensic psychology right.  But there was absolutely nothing for those interested in clinical and counseling psychology – the people who do therapy.  So I decided to write one.

I want to help writers get their psych right!  So many beliefs about psychology are outdated or inaccurate, and because we keep seeing them in the media, we keep assuming they’re true – so they get passed on, one writer to the next, like urban legends.  My book is an accessible, interesting, practical guide to help writers avoid all those common mistakes.

THE WRITER’S GUIDE TO PSYCHOLOGY helps writers get the psychology right in their stories.  What are some common misconceptions you see in the media?

Many, many people believe that schizophrenia,  “split” or multiple personalities, and bipolar disorder are the same thing.  In fact, schizophrenia, multiple personalities (officially called “Dissociative Identity Disorder” or DID), and bipolar disorder are three distinct disorders.

  • ·      Schizophrenia is a biologically-based psychotic disorder, which means that the individual has lost contact with “normal” reality and instead experiences hallucinations or delusions and possibly other unusual or even bizarre behaviors.
  • ·      Dissociative Identity Disorder is a dissociative disorder caused by massive and often sadistic trauma/s during childhood, before the individual has developed adequate coping mechanisms.  As a result, the trauma/s are “split” off from the rest of the personality.  If they are “out” enough, those split-off parts can develop into separate personalities.
  • ·      Bipolar disorder is a biologically-based mood disorder, with extreme downs (depressions) and ups (manias).  Though many people feel good when they are manic, some become extremely irritable or volatile, and a few experience brief psychosis.

A few other misconceptions that are addressed in the book:

  • ·      People don’t shake during “electroshock” therapy, nor are they awake.
  • ·      Serial killers are almost never psychotic, though they may be psychopathic.
  • ·      Not all therapists believe the examination of one’s childhood is important to therapy.

The book contains “Don’t Let This Happen to You!” sidebars, in which you describe mistakes other writers have made.  Could you give us an example?

On a season eight episode of Smallville, a show that chronicles Clark Kent’s life before he becomes Superman, EMT Davis Bloome is unable to control his dark side, Doomsday. Desperate to stop turning into a monster, Davis steals packages of “antipsychotics used for multiple personalities.”

In reality, multiple personality disorder (aka dissociative identity disorder or DID) is not a psychotic disorder. Therefore, there is no such thing as an antipsychotic (or any other medication) that suppresses personality changes in DID. Sorry, Davis!

How much and/or what kind of research went into writing this book?

I researched everything.  Even the facts that I knew, I verified with research.  I have two big binders full of relevant journal and news articles, and I also relied on numerous professional books, interviews with other psychological experts (particularly people who understood medications, hospitalization, and electroconvulsive therapy) and even a couple of tours through psychiatric units.

What is your writing process like?           

When it comes to nonfiction, I’m a very methodical person.  I like to brainstorm, usually writing by hand on regular paper or on a Tablet PC. (For some reason, typing isn’t freeform enough for me when I’m brainstorming.)  Then I like to gather research  that supports the ideas, so I’m starting to build a framework to support the ideas.  After that, it’s time to start writing.  Since publication involves the production of a proposal, I’m usually able to pull summaries out of the material I’ve begun producing.

Honestly, writing nonfiction feels a lot like writing a (doctoral) dissertation to me!

In terms of actually writing, I sit down at the keyboard and just start pounding away.  Even when it feels like I’m producing garbage, I keep going.  Often it just feels like I’m producing garbage, and I’m actually doing just fine for a first draft.  Editing is easier for me, anyways, so if I can get something on the page, I’m moving in the right direction.  I learned to do this from writing fiction – just keep writing and worry about editing later!

Have you ever had writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

My biggest “writer’s block” trick is probably letting my unconscious roll the problem around and come up with some possible solutions.  Psychologists call that “incubation” of an idea.  Then I try to just start writing and hope I see some good stuff.  And even if I don’t the next time I write, I’ve pushed the thought process forward and can let the problem incubate some more.

I also find that switching from typing to writing by hand can be helpful for me.  Writing by hand is more right-brained for me, or something.  I come up with ideas more easily that way.

How can we purchase your book?

The book is available from all the big and small online retailers like
Amazon.com.  You should also be able to find the book in brick-and-mortar stores like Borders!

You can visit Carolyn’s WGTP website for more information including the media kit and a detailed table of contents, follow her on Facebook, visit her YouTube channel, or send her your psychology and writing question at Archetype Writing, her website on psychology for writers.


Anonymous said...

Congrats Carolyn! This book sounds just like what I need for my next book. Do you know if there will be an e-version?

Stina said...

Great interview, ladies! Can't wait to read the book. I've already ordered it. :D

Suzanne Johnson said...

This looks like a great book to help make characters more consistent and realistic. Thanks for the giveaway!

Cathy Bryant said...

This book sounds awesome. Please include me in the giveaway!

4thguy said...

Awesome, just what any kind of story teller needs :)

Melanie said...

This is BRILLIANT! I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of this. I actually have a character in my first (trunked) novel that I had been doing tons of research on to make sure I had a disorder for him that would correctly match his outburst of behavior. Then I was trying to research medications that would really be used to control these behaviors and I found the information on the net to be very quite confusing and even contradictory. This book is exactly what I need. What a great idea!

Definitely include me in this giveaway. If I don't win this contest, will it be available for ibook download?

Alicia Gregoire said...

This has to go on my bookshelf.

Claude Forthomme said...

Definitely a must! And I hope you will soon have a digital version as I find it easier to store...Congratulations, it was something that was missing in a writer's arsenal and I agree with you that much of the psychology in books is just plain wrong or worse, slightly "off" which adds to the general confusion and "urban legends" swarming around...

Tanya Parker Mills said...

Sounds like a terrific resource. Like the first person to comment above, I want to know when it will be available for my Kindle.

Patrick said...

Some people may assume that a book about psychology would be dry and clinical, but I've read several of Carolyn's chapters and she's done a great job keeping it both informative and interesting. Well done, Carolyn. I can't wait to read the rest.

redcharlie said...

Congratulations! Been asked to ghost a memoir of a woman who suffered from agoraphobia, clinical depression and childhood sex abuse. Later in life, after marriage, two children, divorce, she came out and now lives a lesbian lifestyle. Although I have an undergrad degree in psychology, can’t imagine undertaking this project without your book. Best wishes, Charlie Redner

Unknown said...

What a great book! I agree, many times we see bad research on major television shows and books. I'm putting this on my wish list. Is it available for kindle?


Chelly Writes said...

This sounds great. I'd love to win. Please enter me in the contest. Thanks.

Lynnette Labelle said...

Sounds like a fantastic book. It's just so important to make your characters as realistic as possible.

Lynnette Labelle

sharon scarborough said...

Great idea and I've read your blog, so I know the book is informative. Will order if I don't win. Thank.

Eric W. Trant said...

This actually sounds like a great book to have handy.

Usually, for mental disorders, I just spend a few hours with my mom, and then write about what happened.

i.e. Most of the psychoses I show in my writing, when I show them, are based on actual experiences.


- Eric

Henya said...

Congrats Carolyn. It is certainly a book I could use. Is there anything in there that profiles the mind of a terrorist?

Good luck!

She Wrote said...

Since Borders is where my Writers Group meets every Tuesday (great store, BTW), I will be gifting myself with this book ASAP - unless I should win it. (hint). I want a hard copy right here on my desk next to the dictionary!

I write police procedurals and everyone seems to have a problem or two - not just the "bad guys." What a great asset for writers.

Glenna Fairbanks

Cheri Williams said...

Oh. My. Gosh. I SO need this!

Creative Conduit said...

Awesome! I definitely need this book!

Valerie Geary said...

Looks like a great book to have on my writer's shelf!

Mary Lindsey / Marissa Clarke said...

The coolest thing about this book (mine came last night), is that it isn't a bunch of psychobabble I have to decode to find useful. I love it. Congrats, Carolyn.

Jocelyn Rish said...

What a great way for Carolyn to combine her passions - psychology and writing. I was a psych major in college and was always surprised at how wrong the media got things. Carolyn's book sounds like an incredible resource that's been a long time coming.

Carolyn Kaufman | @CMKaufman said...

I am checking with the publisher on an e-version and will let you know what they say. :)

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Congratulations, Carolyn! This will be such a helpful resource for writers.


Tez Miller said...

I'd like to learn more about ECT, so I'd love to win this book, please!

Carolyn Kaufman | @CMKaufman said...

I just heard back from Quill Driver (my publisher), and they say that we are DEFINITELY doing stuff for e-readers, and Kindle will be ready as soon as Amazon finishes processing the files (which they control). So keep an eye out!

Carolyn Kaufman | @CMKaufman said...

Tez -- I was really interested in the facts about how ECT really works, so I talked to someone who administered it, as well as reading several manuals. As a result, there's detailed and hard-to-find info about ECT in the Writer's Guide.

Henya -- I don't profile terrorists' minds, but I do have a whole chapter on psychopaths; in that chapter I also talk about people who do things like instigate school shootings. I wonder if there might be some overlap between what you need and some of that information.

Skarecrow said...

I can't wait to read this...such a wonderful resource for us all. Thanks for your efforts in bringing this to market...good luck in your sales!

Cambria Dillon said...

This definitely sounds like a MUST HAVE resource for writers. Adding it to my Christmas List if I don't win the contest.
Congrats on the release Carolyn!

Danyelle L. said...

Awesome, Carolyn! I'm so excited for you and can't wait to get my hands on a copy! :D Congrats!

Brigitte Ballard said...

Congratulations! It would really be interesting to know how often Hollywood gets it wrong. =)

Carolyn Kaufman | @CMKaufman said...

Thanks so much to everyone! If you didn't win this copy of the book and would like another opportunity, check out my blog for more giveaways! http://archetypewriting.blogspot.com/

Mark W. Travis said...

This book sounds great. Just what I need for a book I am writing NOW about a woman with bi-polar (and I assume that is the same as manic/depressive). I could be wrong. I need your book.

Carolyn Kaufman | @CMKaufman said...

Yep -- bipolar disorder and manic depression are the same. And there's lots of information in the book about it!